Farm tenancy law will need to change if the UK is to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050, the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) has warned.
The group pointed out farmers occupying land under Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs), which tend to be no longer than five years, are not able to plan on a long-term basis and lengthier agreements would be needed to encourage sustainable decision-making.
Changes to the tax regime were also suggested to stop short-term interests driving poor environmental outcomes.
These include restricting 100 per cent Agricultural Property Relief from Inheritance Tax to landlords prepared to let farmland for 10 years or more and reforming Stamp Duty Land Tax to end the discrimination against longer tenancies.
The recommendations were made in the TFA’s written evidence to Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which is holding an inquiry into how the agricultural sector can reach the net zero emissions goal.
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “With over 30 per cent of farmland operated by tenants, it would be a major failing if Government did not build into its thinking the legislative and contractual challenges they face in meeting net zero targets.
“Farm tenants must not be left out from playing their full part in this important area.”
The TFA also called for ‘special consideration’ to be given to tree planting in the context of farm tenancies.
The Government has pledged £50 million to plant 10 million new rural trees, but concern has been raised that tenant farmers will be unable to help meet this target because they are barred from planting trees on their holdings by tenancy agreements.
“If tree planting is to be a major part of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme currently being planned by Defra, farm tenants should not be disenfranchised from participating,” the TFA’s evidence said.
“However, we are not arguing for carte blanche for tenants to be able to plant trees anywhere and everywhere.
“Any relaxing of restrictions must be against the backdrop of landlords being able to object on reasonable terms.”
The group called for tenants to be able to take advantage of schemes which allow tree planting in field margins, scrubby areas, difficult field corners, shelterbelts or other unproductive areas of the holding, but not for consent to be given to plant up large open areas of grass or arable land.