Tenant farmers must not be locked out of new government schemes

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is warning that farmers in England who rent their land may not be able to access new Government public payments for public goods schemes.

It comes as Defra is planning to relaunch its consultation on a new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme over the next few days.

ELM is the new way in which the Government intends to reward farmers for the essential work they do in managing the environment, landscapes and animal welfare.

At the same time, the Agriculture Bill, providing the underpinning legislation for the new scheme, will be progressing through its stages in the House of Lords.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “The Government has recognised the difficulty that some tenant farmers will face in accessing schemes.

“This is especially where they are occupying under long-standing agreements with restrictive clauses, preventing them from accessing schemes without their landlords’ consent.

New arrangements are to be introduced within the Agriculture Bill to prevent landlords from denying consent on an unreasonable basis. However, no such protection is to be afforded to tenants occupying under more recent Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs).

“FBTs are often very short term and contain extremely restrictive terms. Even though nearly half the tenanted farmland in England is let under these newer arrangements, the Government is resisting the need for legislative protection.”

An amendment to the bill was voted down by the Government in its Committee Stage in the House of Commons.

An amendment has also been tabled for the Committee Stage of the Bill in the House of Lords and the TFA is encouraging the Government to accept it.

“Tenant farmers want to play their full part in schemes which enhance the environment, landscapes and animal welfare. There is no reason why they should be locked out from new ELM schemes,” Dunn added.

“There is also no reason why the Government should reject the amendment to the Agriculture Bill, which serves only to ensure maximum levels of participation and that no one is excluded.”

Source: Agriland