Government sets out further support for tenant farmers

By GOV.UK - 25th May 2023

Tenant farmers will be at the heart of the government’s work to grow and support the rural economy thanks to new measures announced on 24 May, 2023, to support the long-term sustainability of the tenant farming sector.

The measures, announced in response to the independent Rock Review, agree with the review’s key recommendations and include a new Farm Tenancy Forum which will work to consider the unique challenges facing the sector, facilitate more collaborative relationships between landlords and tenants, and help to shape farming policy. This will be co-chaired by Julian Sayers and will provide regular feedback to government, strengthening Defra’s relationship with the sector.

The government will also launch a Call for Evidence this summer on the proposal for a Tenant Farming Commissioner in England, considering the benefits this could bring and how it might work in practice.

This builds on the actions we have already taken to help tenant farmers benefit from our Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) and a consultation launched at Budget on potential inheritance tax reforms, in line with the Review recommendations.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: "I’d like to thank Baroness Rock and her team for their work on the review which underlined the vital importance of the tenant farming sector and the action needed to help it thrive.

"At the centre of her review was a call for tenant voices to be heard by government and that we remove barriers to accessing our farming scheme.

"That’s what we’re delivering – both through the measures announced today and in the progress that we have made over recent months, and I look forward to working with the tenanted sector to help make sure we’re delivering on their priorities into the future."

Baroness Kate Rock said: "I welcome the government’s commitment to the agricultural tenanted sector and its willingness to focus on how the objectives of the Rock Review can be delivered.

"I would, however, have liked the response to fully recognise all the findings of the Review, in particular regarding the increase in new clauses being inserted into Farm Business Tenancies, and on tenants engaging in diversified activities. Whilst I welcome the new Farm Tenancy Forum, this must be focused on implementing the findings of the Review to be successful.

"I would like to thank the Secretary of State, the Farming Minister and Defra for their proactive engagement throughout the Rock Review and their commitment to work together for a thriving agricultural tenanted sector."

The Rock Review was published in October 2022, led by Baroness Rock and the Tenancy Working Group, with input from all parts of the tenanted sector including tenants, landlords and agents.

Outside the EU and free from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy, the government is determined to design a fairer system which works in the best interests of British farmers, including the tenant farming sector. The measures announced today build on significant progress in delivering the Environmental Land Management schemes since the review’s publication, with tenants benefitting from more flexible options and schemes.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, for instance, has been designed to be as accessible as possible for tenants, who can apply without landlord consent and sign up to shorter, three-year agreements which can be ended without penalty.

Meanwhile, around half of the 22 successful projects in the first round of the Landscape Recovery Scheme involve tenants working with other farmers and land managers, and work is continuing on how Countryside Stewardship can be simplified and made more flexible to make it work better for tenants.

A consultation and Call for Evidence are also running to explore potential tax changes, including changes to inheritance tax relief that could help encourage tenants to enter environmental land management schemes.

The announcement comes alongside the government’s ongoing support for tenant farmers and the agricultural sector. This includes more than £168 million in grants being made available to farmers this year to drive innovation, support food production, improve animal health and welfare and protect the environment, as well as accelerating the roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive.

More recently, the second round of Landscape Recovery was launched last week to support up to 25 more projects to protect and restore thousands of acres of the English landscape.

... I look forward to working with the tenanted sector to help make sure we’re delivering on their priorities into the future.

- Mark Spencer, Farming Minister
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