Tenants need help to get on farming 'ladder', say group

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Aug 19 14:55:07 BST 2010

Tenants need help to get on farming 'ladder', say group

BRITAIN must have a properly-functioning 'ladder' 
to ease new entrants into the farming sector.

That's just one of the demands from the Tenant 
Farmers' Association has it sets out its "2020 
Vision" – a document which also stresses the need 
for policymakers not to lose sight of the fact 
that not all farmers are owner-occupiers.

The document covers a wide range of other issues, 
including the operation of agri-environment and 
rural development schemes, future CAP reform, the 
importance of county council smallholdings – now 
under threat in Somerset – and management of uplands.

TFA national chairman Greg Bliss said the 
document was the culmination of a long period of 
discussion with members and reflection on the future needs of farming.

"We have set out a clear policy agenda for change 
taking into consideration the needs of the 
tenanted sector and the tenant farmers who, day 
by day, farm and manage at least 30 per cent of 
the agricultural area of England and Wales," he said.

"Given the size and importance of the tenanted 
sector, I continue to be disappointed by the 
apparent lack of understanding of its role in 
agriculture amongst policymakers both at home and in Europe.

"Those who develop policies for agriculture 
unconsciously assume that all farmers are 
owner-occupiers and are able to make their own 
decisions about how to respond to Government schemes and initiatives.

"But for those of us farming as tenants, the 
decisions we make take place in a more complex 
environment involving tenancy legislation, the 
tenancy agreement in place and the ongoing 
relationship with the owner of the land we farm."

Mr Bliss said the document would provide 
policymakers with a clear understanding of that 
complex environment and how they should address 
it as they developed new policies and reviewed current ones.

"The days when the main concerns of the tenant 
farmer were dominated by rent are long gone," he 
said. "With the rapid development of land use, 
agricultural and environmental policies, there is 
now a plethora of issues for tenant farmers to 
consider, which their owner-occupier neighbours can happily ignore.

"The tenanted sector has a key role to play in 
the development of the agricultural industry. It 
is therefore vital that the right policies are 
put in place to ensure that it can meet the challenges ahead."

Meanwhile, the association has written to Farming 
and Food Minister Jim Paice, arguing against 
proposals to take responsibility for TB testing away from local vets.

New arrangements are to be introduced, requiring 
all herds of more than 100 animals to be tested 
by a state veterinary officer, as opposed to a private vet.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: "For a 
number of reasons, we believe that the change 
proposed would be a false economy."

He said the TFA was also concerned that for many 
local veterinary practices in livestock areas TB 
testing had become part of their bread and butter.

"We fear that if TB testing work is taken away 
from local vets that they will either have to 
increase significantly their costs to the 
livestock industry for other services, which may 
put those services out of reach," he added.

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