Agriculture (Wales) Bill: proposals made to first ever designed-in-Wales agricultural framework

This week saw the completion of Stage 3 of the Agriculture (Wales) Bill at the Senedd. CLA Cymru's Fraser McAuley provides an insight into the proposals for members
Wales Brecon Beacons ag landscape

We are a step closer to having the first ever designed-in-Wales agricultural framework as negotiations for the Agriculture (Wales) Bill took place in Cardiff this week.

There were several amendments proposed both government sponsored and those proposed by other members of the Senedd. These amendments covered areas such as the collection of data by Welsh Government, the economic viability of farming and changes to tenancies. Following detailed consideration, a number of proposed amendments to tenancies were identified as concerning to the CLA members in attendance.

The amendments sought to change the definition of agriculture and extend the ability of Farm Business Tenants (FBTs) to request arbitration to vary the terms of their tenancy agreement. There are already powers within the bill to allow dispute resolution for Agricultural Holding Act (AHA) tenancies. In previous stages of the bill, and in the run up to the legislative process, the CLA has continually lobbied MSs and officials to ensure no further changes to tenancy legislation were included within the bill, and we produced a similar briefing ahead of this stage.

The amendment that did make it through the Senedd will introduce a power for Welsh Ministers to make regulations to provide farmers with farm business tenancies (under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995) a route to refer to arbitration disputes over a request for consent or variation of the terms of a tenancy. This is to enable the FBT tenant to access support schemes made under the bill, such as through the Sustainable Farm Scheme as well as financial assistance under other agricultural legislation. CLA Cymru opposed the amendment as it could lead to the management and the character of the holding changing significantly from what was envisaged when the agreement was made. Such a change will deter landlords from entering into longer term FBTs, if tenants are unilaterally able to change the terms of a tenancy following a freely negotiated arrangement.

CLA advice

There remains a number of months before the bill will gain Royal Assent and become law, so the CLA continue to work hard to determine the best course of action for our members.

In the short term if you are in the process of negotiation an FBT at the moment, you should be aware of the proposed changes ahead. If you are concerned, please contact the Wales office in the first instance. We will be issuing further guidance and advice in the coming weeks.

The development of the Sustainable Farming Scheme has slowed significantly and we are urging the Welsh Government to reinvigorate their processes to remain on track for its introduction in 2025. We are also urging them to commit to Glastir extensions for 2024, something they have not announced yet. We do know there is a ministerial announcement on 6 June on the Sustainable Farming Scheme so CLA Cymru will update Welsh members further after that.

Key contact:

Fraser McAuley
Fraser McAuley Senior Policy Adviser, CLA Cymru