Tenant farmers inquiry – NFU response

22 June 2023

An image of sheep on a farm with a farmhouse in the background

The EFRA Committee has been seeking views from tenant farmers as part of an inquiry into actions to take forward from the Rock Review. Read the NFU response.

In October 2022 the Rock Review, which looked at the viability of tenant farming in England, was published.

The 128-page report gave more than 70 recommendations covering landlord-tenant relationships, as well as changes to legislation and tax arrangements.

The government subsequently responded to the Review, and the EFRA Committee has now launched a call for evidence on tenant farming. Read our explanatory notes for more information on the inquiry.

How can I give evidence?

The NFU will respond to the call for evidence and sought member feedback as part of it's response. The NFU may be required to disclose responses as part of the inquiry. Therefore all responses will be anonymised.

The deadline for feedback has now passed. You can follow the progress of the consultation at: GOV.UK | Tenant farming – Call for Evidence.

If you have responded directly to EFRA, please note that your response is likely to be published.

The key areas that the consultation focused on were: 

  • The pressures and challenges facing tenant farmers
  • How effectively landlord and tenant relationships are working
  • What impact other Government initiatives are having on the tenanted sector e.g tree planting, housing policies, renewable energy projects
  • How accessible and attractive schemes to the tenanted sector are, such as ELMs and other productivity schemes

20 June 2023

NFU submits response

The NFU has submitted a response to the EFRA Committee's call for evidence into tenant farming. NFU members were invited to provide us feedback which we fed into the response.

Pressures and challenges facing tenant farmers

Those highlighted by the response included: 

  • Land taken back in hand by a landlord
  • Declining BPS
  • Access to borrowing and finance
  • Landlord consent for scheme entry
  • ELM Scheme options

The NFU drew attention to the fact that not only do tenant farmers face different challenges to owner occupiers but that challenges will be different tenant to tenant depending on how much rented land they rely on.

Landlord and tenant relationships

There are good and bad landlord / tenant relationships with some landlords wanting to be more involved than others with their tenants.

The type of landlord, estate or land holding, the size and whether it is equipped or not are often factors which contribute to how the relationship works. More traditional estates tend to have longer term multigenerational relationships whilst other smaller landlords may prefer shorter lets.

Bare land lettings tend to attract a much shorter term than lets that include land, buildings and a house. The size of the area let also appears to influence the length of term with larger areas being let for the longest.

Due to these trends in letting for certain lengths of term and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach may not work for everyone within the sector and flexibility for all parties is very important.

It is also worth noting that during periods of uncertainty around new environment schemes and payments, landowners tend to either take land back in hand or to let on very short terms. This allows them to keep as many options as possible open to them.

Areas that Government could consider to assist a more collaborative approach include:

  • Disputes relating to requests for landlord's consent or variation of terms within Farm Business Tenancies
  • Introduction of a hybrid FBT (farm business tenancy)
  • Improvement financing for FBTs to encourage landlord investment on a holding

Interaction with wider Government policies

For certain initiatives such as housing, renewable energies especially solar farms and environmental schemes, a landlord might contemplate either taking land back to sell or repurpose for a non-agricultural use should prospective returns be more attractive than letting.

Government policies that involve agricultural land need to encourage land sharing and not sparing.

In short, delivering agriculture and other uses on the same parcel of land rather than taking land out of agricultural production for delivery of an alternative outcome.

Access to environmental land management schemes and productivity schemes

Government have taken steps to make schemes such as SFI, CS and other productivity schemes accessible to tenants.

What is important, and what the NFU has previously stated in conversations with Defra, is that payment levels need to be sufficient for a tenant to be able to make a living from their farming business after they have paid their rent.

As many options as possible within SFI need to be compatible with standard tenancy terms to enable and incentivise participation.

New entrant farmers

The NFU is aware of some positive scenarios where land is specifically being placed on the tenanted market specifically with a view to it being a decent length tenancy for a new entrant farmer.

However, the NFU has also had feedback from landowners that they would be reluctant to let for a longer term to a new entrant, as the new entrant is considered high risk by landlords due to a perceived lack of capital and experience.

As such, shorter term FBTs, share farming or contract farming arrangements offer good ways for a new entrant to be able to build their business portfolio to eventually become attractive prospect for landlords to offer longer term tenancies to.

It is very important that county farm estates, especially in the traditional progression model, are preserved and not sold off or used for non-agricultural development. These estates offer a solid way into the industry for new entrants and government needs to ensure that any sales of county farm rural estate land is closely scrutinised before approval.

NFU members can log in to read the consultation response in full at: NFU Tenant Farmers Consultation Response June 2023

20 June 2023

Consultation closed

This consultation has now closed.

24 May 2023

EFRA Committee launches inquiry

What is the aim of the inquiry?

This inquiry will determine the priority actions to take forward from the Rock Review, evaluate the government’s response to Baroness Rock’s findings, and consider how recent developments in the tenanted sector should be accounted for in any steps taken by the government.

The deadline for submitting feedback on this inquiry to the NFU has now passed.

Members may consider responding directly to EFRA by 20 June at: GOV.UK | Tenant farming – Call for Evidence.

24 May 2023

Government publishes it response to the Rock Review

The government published its response to the Rock Review. As part of the recommendations and actions to reform the sector announced by Defra, a new farm tenancy forum will be formed to meet regularly and consider how the sector is progressing.

You can read more about the announcement and the NFU's reaction at: Defra publishes Rock Review response

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  • 24 May 2023: Government publishes its response to the Rock Review
  • EFRA Committee launches an inquiry into the actions to be taken forward from the Rock Review
  • 9 June: NFU seeks member views as part of the inquiry
  • 20 June: NFU submits response