The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 30,000 landowners and businesses in England and Wales, has formally responded to joint consultations on improving agricultural tenancy legislation, highlighting the need for any reform to avoid prolonging the antiquated system of AHA tenancies.
In consultations to Defra and the Welsh Government, the CLA has argued that AHA tenancies have largely proved over time to be regressive and that efforts going forward would be better focused on actions which do not require time-consuming legislation, but that can deliver real impact for the future of farming – for example developing guidance to raise awareness of the more flexible Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs), optimising the legislative framework which surrounds them, and creating advice around retirement and succession planning.
Commenting on the proposals, CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “With the significant challenges facing the farming industry in the future, we need to move on from the AHA structure of the past and widely embrace more flexible alternatives such as FBTs, share farming, contract farming and joint ventures. We welcome the opportunity to engage, but strongly feel we shouldn’t be tinkering around the edges of a system which has fundamental flaws, and which is widely felt to not work for either tenants or landowners.”
Adding to comments previously made when the consultations were announced, which highlighted that a mountain of work still needs to be concluded on productivity, payment for public goods and the introduction of environmental markets and climate change, the CLA again questioned the timing of the consultation in its formal responses.
Mr Breitmeyer added: “The timing of these consultations remains problematic. It makes much more sense to review farm tenancy legislation at a later date – once the important work around a post-Brexit farming settlement is complete. Given the current climate of uncertainty for landlords and tenants alike, it seems the wrong time to be considering additional fundamental changes for such an important sector of the industry, and we should be wary of future unintended consequences.”
The responses also highlighted the previous positive results of the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) in bringing about cross-industry consensus for reform, and urged Defra and the Welsh Government to recognise the importance of working closely with this industry stakeholder group in the future.