A new independent review has published recommendations on how landlords, tenants and government can work together to deliver a resilient and productive tenant sector.
The Rock Review was commissioned by Defra in January to advise on providing better support to tenant farmers as the government looks to drive growth and sustainability across the farming sector. The Tenancy Working Group, which produced the report, consists of stakeholders from across the tenanted sector.
The review is clear on the essential role of tenant farmers in delivering environmental targets, food security and a growing rural economy. Tenant farmers are stewards on holdings that cover more than half the farmable land in England and require access to government schemes.
Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena said: “I would like to thank Baroness Rock and her team for providing their analysis of the issues and opportunities facing tenant farmers in England.
“The review is right to set out the importance of having a thriving tenanted sector if we are to deliver growth in our rural economy and unlock farmers’ potential to improve the environment. We will be looking closely at its recommendations.
“As we look at how we best deliver our environmental schemes, we will make sure that the needs of tenant farmers remain central to our plans.”
Baroness Kate Rock said: “This review provides a clear vision for the agricultural tenanted sector in England that Defra can and should adopt. The recommendations, when taken together, actively move the sector towards a position where tenant farmers operate resilient, successful, and thriving businesses.
“Some recommendations can be more immediately delivered by Defra such as changes to scheme design that would expand the opportunities for tenant farmers to access support for improving the environment alongside producing food.
“Other recommendations are more structural. These will put the tenanted sector on a more resilient footing as we move through the agricultural transition. They will encourage tenant farmers and landlords to collaborate and invest in productivity, improve the environment and drive growth in the rural economy.”
The government will publish a formal response to the review in due course.
Responding to the Baroness Rock review of the tenanted farming sector, NFU tenants forum chair Chris Cardell said: “Agricultural tenants and tenanted land have a vital role in delivering this government’s food production and environmental ambitions, and in growing our rural economies. As the review stresses, and as the NFU has long argued, landlords and tenants should be working together as equal partners to achieve this.
“With over 60% of England’s farmed area being farmed by tenants, they play a pivotal role in producing food for the nation and looking after our environment. That is why it is important that agricultural land in the tenanted sector is protected and any loss minimised by ensuring that the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) is accessible and relevant to both tenants and landlords.
“The NFU agrees with Baroness Rock’s Review that county council farm estates should be a key entry point for next generation farmers. The report is also right to urge Defra and regulators to ‘tenant-proof’ their schemes, policies and processes, ensuring they are a benefit to all farmers, including tenant farmers, and therefore wider food production and environmental protection.
“Any comprehensive review will throw up differences of opinion and the NFU tenants forum will now examine the recommendations in detail. The NFU urges Ministers to respond swiftly so that together we can grow a more vibrant, accessible and resilient tenanted farming sector.”