Tenants raise concerns over policy proposal

31 October 2022


‘Welsh Government’s outline proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme do not work for farmers who do not own the land that they farm’. That was the message from farmers attending a series of NFU Cymru tenants’ events in Wales last week.

At the meetings, NFU Cymru shared information on the Agriculture (Wales) Bill introduced to the Senedd last month and Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme set to replace the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Glastir and other rural development schemes from 2025.

Scheme access

Farmers present at the meeting expressed serious concerns that they would not be able to access government support schemes in the future. 

Four key areas of concern

  1. Many were extremely doubtful that landlords would be prepared to grant permission for the proposed 10% tree cover and 10% habitat creation universal action requirements given they result in a permanent land use change from productive agricultural land.
  2. In many instances, woodlands were not included within the tenancy agreement, so tenant farmers were further away from achieving Welsh Government’s target for woodland cover. Overall targets for 10% tree cover and 10% habitat were viewed as unworkable for the tenanted sector and likely to prevent equal access to the scheme for the sector.
  3. It was also highlighted that Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals for universal actions to be delivered via five year multi-annual contracts did not reflect the on-the-ground realities and the broad range of land tenure that exists in Wales, ranging from full lifetime Agriculture Holdings Tenancies through to land farmed on annual rolling farm business tenancy arrangements and short term lets.
  4. Proposals for multi-annual contracts were a significant change from the BPS, which requires having management control of the land on the 15 May each year, and being responsible for cross compliance on that land for the calendar year.

Steps forward

The amendments within the Agriculture (Wales) Bill to the Agricultural Holdings Act to provide tenants with a dispute resolution, where the landlord may be unreasonably withholding consent to vary a restrictive clause in the tenancy agreement where the restrictive clause presents the tenant from accessing financial access scheme, was seen as a step forward.   

However, those attending the meetings agreed that Welsh Government needed to recognise the cost of dispute resolution could be prohibitive for some tenants and the process may not be successful anyway. Disappointment was also expressed that similar provisions did not exist for farm business tenancy tenants.

Elwyn Evans, NFU Cymru Tenants’ Representative, said: “With over a quarter of land in Wales farmed by people who do not own the land that they farm, it is vital that Welsh Government recognise that the sector is central to the delivery of its environmental objectives.

"A vibrant thriving tenanted sector is also integral in providing opportunities for new entrants and young farmers. NFU Cymru welcomes Welsh Government’s commitment to establish a working group to look at the specific issues for tenant farmers as new schemes are developed. There is a need to look at the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme again to ensure that farmers who do not own the land that they farm are not disadvantaged and are able to access the scheme on equal terms.”

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