As part of the evidence-gathering process, Baroness Rock visited tenant farmers in West Sussex in late June. Tenant farmers highlighted potential problems that they were already encountering within their own businesses and discussed solutions to help the tenanted sector flourish.
NFU South East tenants’ representative John Marland, from East Sussex, said: “It was good to see many tenant farmers from across the South East and I was very impressed with Baroness Rock who was thoroughly engaging. As a tenant farmer herself, she was passionate in wanting to see a vibrant tenanted farming sector for current and future generations. A number of very important points were discussed and my overall impression was that Baroness Rock would take on board the points raised.”
Mr Marland continued: “Listening to the NFU tenant members, one issue is the uncertainty surrounding the new Government environmental schemes not being fully accessible to tenants, both AHA and FBT, to engage in. This is because some landlords are withholding consent or actively denying tenants permission to enter the schemes, with some very clearly wishing to enter the schemes themselves and, worse still, serving notices to quit and taking land back to do so.”
Unfortunately, unlike a landowner who might choose to secure extra finances against the value of their land, tenants do not have this option. Price volatility and variable costs often leave tenants in need of an immediate increase in cash flow. Then they find themselves accepting finance agreements with their suppliers that frequently leave them exposed to the cost increases, explained Mr Marland.
“There is a significant shortage of tenanted farms or land available, and often 40 or 50 applicants per tenancy; this is particularly bad for new entrants, and also sad, because, here in the South East, there are large numbers of parcels of land not being farmed, or barely being farmed. These could provide ideal parcels of land for new entrants.” Mr Marland is determined to help create conditions for a vibrant tenanted sector capable of engaging with the new government environmental schemes and showing resilience to climate change. He added: “Landlords and tenants have worked well for generations and will hopefully continue to do so for generations to come.”
Tenant farmers meeting Baroness Kate Rock in West Sussex - NFU South East tenants’ representative John Marland is pictured centre (green coat).