The Rock Review was commissioned by Defra in January to look at how to provide better support to tenant farmers and tenancies as the government seeks to drive growth and sustainability across the farming sector and rural communities. The Tenancy Working Group, who produced the report, consisted of stakeholders from all parts of the tenanted sector including tenants, landlords and agents.
Published on 13 October, the review highlights environmental targets, food security, and a growing rural economy. With tenant farmers being stewards on holdings that cover more than half of farmable land in England, this group of farmers need to have access to government schemes, say Defra.
The review makes a series of recommendations to government to enable the tenanted sector to deliver sustainable food production, meet the challenges of climate change, and improve and enhance biodiversity. The recommendations cover a range of areas, including public schemes, landlord-tenant relationships and new entrants.
The CLA looks forward to discussing these recommendations with the Secretary of State and improve the collaboration between landlords and tenants in taking up the opportunities offered by ELM and private schemes
Commenting on the details of the report, CLA President, Mark Tufnell, said: “Landowners and tenant farmers are at the forefront of food production and environmental stewardship. Proactive collaboration between both parties will always achieve the best outcome, and this report is a useful addition to the debate about how landowners and tenants can take advantage of the opportunities afforded by new Defra schemes."
Mark continued: “The report builds on joint CLA/TFA guidance published earlier this year, and it identifies the scale of the task facing Defra in developing a framework that will enable landlords and tenants to enter into multi-annual agreements. The report echoes the CLA view that environmental management activities should be deemed as agriculture for tax purposes. But Defra clearly still has much more work to do to rollout all the remaining parts of Environmental Land Management (ELM) in a way that is attractive and workable for landowner and tenant alike.
Mark recognised that some aspects of the report may be cause for concern, by noting: “We are concerned, however, that the recommendations for tenancy reform may damage confidence in long-term letting until all matters are resolved and the way ahead is clear. Removing Agricultural Property Relief for shorter tenancies of less than 8 years, a new provision for Farm Business Tenancy tenants to go to arbitration to change agreements, and a Tenant Farmer Commissioner all could constitute barriers to the flexibility that free markets bring to both parties. There is no redress suggested for the landlord where longer-term management agreements exceed the length of the tenancy and this should be reviewed.
Looking to the future, Mark concluded by saying: “The key to longer term agreements is for all to negotiate and reach agreement. The CLA looks forward to discussing these recommendations with the Secretary of State and improve the collaboration between landlords and tenants in taking up the opportunities offered by ELM and private schemes.”