Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy should ensure farm subsidies support working farmers, policy makers have been warned.
Publishing its vision for agriculture in 2020, the Tenant Farmers Association said the CAP should retain its focus on assisting active farmers while providing a framework for food and environmental security.
Food security should also be taken as seriously as climate change, with government policy being drawn up to tackle the issue.
The document, published on Tuesday (10 August) sets out 14 things the TFA wants to see happen in the agricultural sector in England and Wales by 2020.
In addition to the future of the CAP, it covers agri-environment and rural development schemes, upland management and its vision for the tenanted sector.
It calls for policy makers to have a better understanding and appreciation of the operations of tenant farmers, as well more flexible tenancy agreements to help landlords build lasting relationships with their tenants.
Greg Bliss, TFA national chairman, said he was disappointed by the lack of understanding about the tenanted sector in agriculture among policy makers – both in the UK and 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,” he said.
“But for those of us farming as tenants, the decisions we make take place in a more complex environment involving tenant legislation, the tenancy agreement in place and the ongoing relationship with the owner of the land we farm.
“Our vision document will provide policy makers with a clear understanding of this complex environment and how they should address this as they develop policies and review those currently in place.”
With rapid development of land use, agricultural and environmental policies, tenant farmers had many more issues to consider, which their owner-occupied neighbours could ignore, Mr Bliss added.
“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.”
THE TFA’s DEMANDS:
* All associated with the development and implementation of agricultural, land use and environmental policies should understand the unique framework within which tenant farmers operate and respond to policy.
* The importance of the tenanted sector in agriculture to the public interest is both appreciated and fully taken into consideration in policy development for agriculture.
* Agricultural landlords should be looking to develop lasting relationships with their tenants through long-term, flexible tenancy agreements.
* Agricultural tenancies should be the preferred way to manage land owned by one party and farmed by another.
* Agri-environment and rural development schemes should be tailored to ensure that participation is only by those actively managing the land on a day-to-day basis.
* County Council smallholding estates should be valued by individual local authorities and the nation as a whole as vital to the sustainability of providing a viable entry point and ongoing development for those seeking a career in agriculture.
* Farm diversification should not be a barrier to succession of tenancy within traditional tenancies of holdings let under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.
* Food security considerations should be at least as important as those for climate change in the development of new policy.
* There should be a fair balance of power between producers, processors and retailers in the food chain to ensure no sector is dominated by others.
* There should no longer be any bar on public money being used for applied research and development within agriculture, food technology and land management.
* The Common Agricultural Policy should retain its focus on ensuring that it is supporting the livelihoods of working farmers while providing a framework for food and environmental security.
* There should be a new framework for ensuring the sustainable development of upland areas, with support focused on re-establishing ruminant livestock production as the cornerstone of land management for these fragile areas.
* Animal health policy should be conducted within a true partnership framework between government and industry without the government seeking to pass its legitimate cost obligations onto the industry which already has its own costs to bear.
* Adequate attention needs to be given to ensure the farming career ladder is operating effectively with opportunities for entry, development and retirement with dignity.