Government response to tenancy reform consultation

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NFU tenants forum chairman, Chris Cardell, has given his thoughts on the government response to a consultation on agricultural tenancy law in England.

The Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) will be amended to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century. The government says this will enable tenant farmers to be more productive and have greater freedom in their business planning. 

Amendments include repealing the minimum succession retirement age of 65 to provide tenants with the flexibility to decide when it is right for them to retire and hand over the farm to the next generation.

A new dispute mechanism will also be introduced to enable AHA tenants to ask to vary restrictions in their tenancy agreements and make it easier for them to apply for the future Environmental Land Management scheme.

NFU tenants’ forum chair, Chris Cardell, said: “The NFU is pleased to see the reforms that have been brought forward which we believe will give tenants greater flexibility and remove some barriers to productivity and potentially allow them access to new Environmental Schemes.

“However, it is disappointing that 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.

“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.”

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.  

“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that our tenant farmers are some of the most engaged and innovative in the sector and it is high time that we modernise outdated legislation so that it is fit for today’s farmers and their families.  

“I am pleased that we have already been able to incorporate some of these proposals into our landmark Agriculture Bill and look forward to working closely with industry to continue supporting this vibrant sector.”