Tenant farmer inquiry – see how we are representing the tenanted sector

08 April 2024

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

The Efra Committee along with Defra has been seeking views from tenant farmers as part of an inquiry into actions to take forward from the Rock Review. Follow the latest news on the inquiry and see how the NFU is representing its tenanted members.

In October 2022 the Rock Review, was published by Defra, which looked at the viability of tenant farming in England. The 128-page report gave more than 70 recommendations covering landlord-tenant relationships, as well as changes to legislation and tax arrangements.

Following this, the government published its own response to the review and the Efra Committee launched an inquiry to determine the priority areas to take forward from it. 

Defra has consulted with trade organisations and industry bodies with a view to appointing a tenant farming commissioner, who would scrutinise the goings on in the sector and promote good codes of practice

8 April 2024

NFU welcomes new Landlord-Tenant Code of Practice

The new code has been published today and follows a key recommendation from the Rock Review which gave more than 70 recommendations covering landlord-tenant relationships, as well as changes to legislation and tax arrangements.

The code is designed to foster and encourage clarity, communication, and collaboration in the tenanted sector.

It provides guidance on the standards of behaviour expected from landlords and tenants as well as those providing professional advice in connection with agricultural tenancy matters.

Download the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Code of Practice for England.

19 February 2024

Agricutural Tenancy Code of Practice – Final draft published for feedback

An Expert Working Group has drafted a new Agricultural Tenancy Code of Practice.

The Expert Working Group was created by the Farm Tenancy Forum in 2023 and consists of stakeholder representatives including the NFU, CLA (Country Land and Business Association), TFA (Tenant Farmers Association) as well as professional representative organisations.

With the general principles of clarity, communication and collaboration, the new Code aims to support landlords and tenants, and their professional advisers, to establish and maintain positive, productive and sustainable commercial relationships.

NFU members were invited to comment on the new code prior to its endorsement by the Farm Tenancy Forum, until 29 February 2024.

8 February 2024

Call for evidence closed

The call for evidence is now closed to feedback.

8 February 2024

NFU submits response to call for evidence

In order to respond to this Call for Evidence, the NFU has engaged with tenant farmer members to gather their evidence and views.

We conducted a number of member meetings both virtually and in person in regions across England. We also held a virtual national meeting.

All meetings gave members the opportunity to speak. In addition, we also invited members to send in further comments via a link on the NFU website.

We await the government’s response to the Call for Evidence.

NFU members can log in and download our response in full at: Tenancy Call for Evidence – NFU response.

16 November 2023

Defra launches further call for evidence to improve working relationships for tenant farmers

Defra has launched a new call for evidence, seeking views from trade organisations and industry bodies with a view to appointing a tenant farming commissioner, who would scrutinise the goings on in the sector and promote good codes of practice.

The call also aims to seek views from across the sector on areas where poor practice may have occurred and to establish how tenants, landlords and advisors can foster more collaborative working relationships.

NFU Tenants’ Forum chair John Marland said he welcomes the call for evidence that Defra has announced, saying it was good that they are keen to work with industry to address concerns.

The NFU collected views from tenant farmer members during a member webinar on 8 January 2024, as well as through a feedback survey which was open until 26 January 2024.

More information on the call for evidence can be found at: Call for evidence launched to improve working relationships for tenant farmers

20 June 2023

NFU submits response to inquiry

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 the 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

Inquiry closed

This inquiry has now closed for submissions.

24 May 2023

Efra Committee launches inquiry to determine priority actions from Rock Review

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

This page was first published on 23 November 2023. It was updated on 08 April 2024.


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Summary

  • 8 April 2024: New Landlord-Tenant Code of Practice is published.
  • 19 February 2024: The Expert Working Group publishes the final draft of the Agricultural Tenancy Code of Practice for feedback.
  • 16 November 2023: Defra launches a further call for evidence, with an aim to further improve tenant-landlord relationships.
  • 20 June 2023: NFU submits response to inquiry.
  • 24 May 2023: Efra Committee launches an inquiry into the actions to be taken forward from the Rock Review.