A lack of joined-up working among the various Government departments could be damaging to rural businesses, the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has warned.
TFA chief executive George Dunn, who recently gave evidence to the House of Lords Rural Economy Committee, has called for a more unified approach where issues such as renewable energy, county council smallholding estates and migrant labour required input from multiple departments.
Mr Dunn said he had written a follow-up letter to committee chairman Lord Foster detailing a number of areas where the various offices had clashed.
He used the example of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) where, despite the department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) deciding there was insufficient merit in calls to extend the GCA to cover the relationships between farmers, first purchasers and processors, Defra’s Agriculture Bill contained provisions on the regulation of the relationship between farmers and first purchasers.
He said Defra was now intending to give oversight of this new legislation to the Rural Payments Agency, which the TFA and others said would be inappropriate.
“The obvious place to sit the regulation would be with the GCA but this seems to be unachievable due to the impasse between BEIS and Defra,” added Mr Dunn.
Highlighting policy around council-owned farms and their authority to sell them off, Mr Dunn said while the legislation covering the management of these estates was set out in the Agriculture Act 1970, the new rules surrounding what would provide best value for taxpayers were the responsibility of the Department for Local Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG).
While Defra had attempted to stem the mass sell-off of local authority holdings, Mr Dunn said it was ‘not a priority’ for DHCLG, leaving councils to make decisions to the detriment of the industry.