15 July 1998
Tenant farmers warned to stay within agriculture

By Catherine Hughes

LANDLORDS may force tenant farmers who take part in non-agricultural activities under rural development or environmental schemes to quit claims George Dunn, chief executive, of the Tenants Farmers Association.

Speaking this week to the agriculture select committee on rural development, Mr Dunn said a system must be set up to allow tenant farmers to take advantage of non-agricultural schemes, such as setting up a farm shop or a B&B businesses, without breaching their tenancy agreements.

He said tenant farmers face the risk of having their rents increased by landlords if their non-agricultural businesses or grants proved a success.

“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.

Mr Dunn said the Farm Business Tenancy Act of 1995, which was supposed to increase flexibility between landlord and tenants and offer a framework for farmers to diversify away from agriculture, did not work properly.

“Landlords are still reluctant to let land for longer periods of time, but many of the environment schemes ask for a commitment of 10 years, or else the money must be paid back,” he said. “This means tenants are therefore unsure about entering such schemes.”

The TFA also believes CAP payments should be directed to the producer in the form of headage payments instead being given to the landlord.