NFU Tenant Farmers' Conference hears surprise announcement

Published 01 December 2021

Tenant farming
minette

Farming minister Victoria Prentis announced that payments for farmers would change from year to year. The minister made the surprise announcement at the first session of the NFU Tenant Farmers' Conference held on 30 November 2021. 

The Minister of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food was taking part in a question and answer session with NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw when she said a new mindset was needed, as behaviours that the government wants farmers to engage with might not be known at the time of writing the Sustainable Farming Incentive.

The minister also spoke about the important role of tenant farmers in food production, said the sector has a vibrant future and that the government is backing British farming.

Current challenges

The conference, being held virtually for the first time over two days, kicked off with a speech from NFU President Minette Batters who spoke about future trade deals and the current challenging issues of labour across different sectors before finishing on the agricultural transition and how tenant farmers will be impacted by future schemes and policies such as Environmental Land Management.

Mrs Batters said she was aware of the huge concerns amongst tenant farmers at losing the ‘active farmer’ requirement and explained the reasoning for calling for the transition to be delayed and why the NFU is calling on Defra to carry out a review of SFI.

Labour backing British farming

With more than 300 NFU members registered for the conference, the political session also heard from Labour’s Daniel Zeichner, MP, Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Mr Zeichner said that farming and food production was high up the political agenda and that his party gave voters in rural constituencies a viable alternative to the Conservatives.

He explained that his party’s Rural Policy Review would continue into the New Year with the aim of offering as much hope to rural communities as to people living in towns and cities. He said the focus would be on a stronger rural economy, digital technology and would include an expansion of broadband and better transport links.

He told the watching audience that the government’s current policy of signing trade deals and importing more food produced to lower standards would eventually put many smaller tenanted farms out of business.

Mr Zeichner ended by saying that a tenanted sector is needed that works for new, young people wanting to enter the industry and that collaboration with landlords is key.

Challenges of agriculture transition

Day one’s final session saw tenants and landlords talk about the importance of collaboration to meet the challenges of agricultural transition and climate change.

Speakers included Peter Coddington from Yorkshire Water, Rachel Hallos, NFU member and Yorkshire West Riding chair and NFU South West member Robin Milton.

Day two

Chris Cardell

“A serious concern raised was around the potential loss of land out of the sector if future funding options did not allow the active farmer to be rewarded for their efforts. Defra’s Janet Hughes assured her audience that these factors were being actively considered in any new proposals.”
NFU Tenants’ Forum chairman Chris Cardell

NFU Tenants’ Forum chairman Chris Cardell took the reins for the farmer session on day two, one of the most popular sessions of previous conferences.

This year’s session featured three tenant farmers who discussed how they are adapting their business models to ensure they can thrive in the years ahead. They were Helen Drinkall from Lancashire, Rob Halliday from Cornwall and Will Cheyney, from Hampshire.

Speaking after the session, Mr Cardell said: “We have been very lucky to have some excellent and varied speakers over the two days and the subsequent question sessions highlighted many of the concerns our members are currently facing in the land tenure market. One strong theme was that the best outcomes for both tenant and landlord are formed where there is a strong and honest collaboration between the two parties. 

“A serious concern raised was around the potential loss of land out of the sector if future funding options did not allow the active farmer to be rewarded for their efforts. Defra’s Janet Hughes assured her audience that these factors were being actively considered in any new proposals.”

Mr Cardell also went on to say that he hoped delegates took away some “important actions” for their businesses around structure, future funding opportunities and financial positions.

The conference also provided the NFU Tenants’ Forum with the opportunity to reiterate their priorities on behalf of tenant farmers, and unveil the suite of member benefits that they can unlock specific to the tenanted sector. 

Find out more about these on our NFU Tenants' Service page.

Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query our NFU CallFirst team will contact you and, if appropriate, your question will be passed on to one of our policy teams.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.