Farmer Focus: Short-term tenancies provide little security

As a tenant on a Farm Business Tenancy agreement, I am increasingly uncomfortable about the need for long-term thinking and planning to adapt and protect my business, when the most important aspect – the tenancy – is unlikely to give me the security to do so.

After harvest, I will be in the last year of an initial five-year tenancy. I have set out with long-term thinking in all that I have done, with the hope that I will benefit from doing so for many years to come. I believe this is the right thing to have done.

However, the next step is to renew the tenancy for a further 15 years, which unfortunately I believe is the maximum possible.

This will allow security of sorts, but in an industry where plans take many years to implement, it is not long at all.

See also: Regenerative farming: The theory and the farmers doing it

Any of the bigger capital improvements that are needed will have to be paid for over this short period, whereas elsewhere they would be done over 20 to 25 years.

The final kick that is bothering me is that there is no guarantee I’d be able to renew the tenancy and benefit after the hard work of funding it.

I am keen to continue to develop a regenerative agriculture system, invest in the farm infrastructure and environment, and would even like to pursue some agro-forestry.

However, there is an increasingly worried part of me that says I do not want to spend my career putting all my effort into the arguably more challenging and costly years improving farms and setting up systems, only to have to move on to a new tenancy and start again – just as it reached its prime.

I am very lucky to be in the position I am in, and I’m reluctant to complain as there are many people wanting to forge their own farming careers.

But as we head into the post-BPS era, where farm profitability is going to hinge on long-term decisions, changes and investments, I am concerned the current system of short-term tenancies is going to cause a significant issue for many tenants like myself, and in the end landlords as well.

Like many challenges within farming, I may not like it and I might grumble about it, but if that’s what it is then I will find a way to make it work.

However, just because that’s currently how it is, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

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