Today (March 18) Defra announced its plans to modernise agricultural tenancy law to provide farmers with more flexibility in a bid to ‘unlock productivity’ for the sector.
The department responded to its 2019 consultation on agricultural tenancy law in England, and confirmed it will amend the Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) to give tenant farmers greater freedom in business planning.
Amendments include the repeal of the minimum succession retirement age of 65, which will give farmers autonomy on when to retire and hand over the farm to the next generation, and a new dispute mechanism which will enable tenants to ask to vary restrictions when applying for future Environmental Land Management schemes.
Farming minister, Victoria Prentis, said agricultural tenancies account for a third of all farmland in this country so tackling barriers to productivity for the tenanted sector is ‘vital for unlocking the potential of the farming industry as a whole’.
She said: “We know that our tenant farmers are some of the most engaged and innovative in the sector and it is high time that we modernise outdated legislation so that it is fit for today’s farmers and their families."
The NFU has welcomed the reforms brought forward by Government which will ’give tenants greater flexibility and remove some barriers to productivity’.
But the organisation is disappointed not more of the reforms have been taken forward in the Agriculture Bill, in particular ’the need to include requests for landlords consent or variation of terms under the Agricultural Tenancies Act in addition to AHAs’.
NFU tenants’ forum chairman, Chris Cardell, said: “We would have liked to have seen the reform to modernise and extend succession rights to include nephews, nieces and grandchildren included in the Bill.
"We also have concerns regarding the reform of the Suitability Test including the wording ‘Environmental Care’ and agree how this is applied should be carefully considered and the work undertaken by the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG).
“The NFU looks forward to working with government and other organisations on the proposals which require further work and we would like these to be looked at again and introduced in the next 12 months.”