17 July 1998

Rural schemes risk tenancies

TENANTS participating in non-agricultural activities under a rural development or environment scheme may be given a notice to quit, claims Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn.

Giving evidence on Tuesday to the agriculture select committees inquiry into the EU Commissions proposals to re-enforce rural development under the CAP, Mr Dunn said that in developing such schemes, sufficient scope for tenant farmers to take advantage of them without breaching their tenancy agreements must be allowed.

"If agriculture support payments are to be transferred into environmental and rural development budgets in the future, we must ensure they are non-discriminatory between owner occupiers and tenant farmers," he said.

The new farm business tenancy act of 1995, which aimed to increase flexibility of letting land between landlord and tenants, offered a framework for farmers to diversify away from agriculture. But it needed to be reviewed, despite being in place for only three years, because it was not working, claimed Mr Dunn.

"Landlords are still reluctant to let land for longer periods of time. But many of the environment schemes ask for a commitment for 10 years or else pay the money back. This means that tenants are, therefore, unsure about entering such schemes."

The TFA also believed CAP aid should be directed to producers in the form of headage payments, rather than on an area basis, which would increase land values. &#42