Defra launches call for evidence on tenant farming commissioner

Defra is calling for evidence as part of a proposal to introduce a tenant farming commissioner following recommendations made in the Rock Review.

It will look at poor practice in the tenanted sector and how this could be addressed by government and industry.

One area of interest being explored is poor communication between landlords, tenants, and agents during farm tenancy renewals and rent reviews.

See also: Analysis: What tenancy reform might look like for farmers

It will also try to establish how effective the current system is for registering complaints of poor practice and consider how the potential role of an independent tenant farming commissioner would improve this.

Industry bodies, advisers, and sector experts have all been invited to respond and the review is due to remain open until 8 February 2024.

Defra farming minister Mark Spencer said: “We’ve made significant progress in delivering our response to the Rock Review, including making our Environment Land Management [ELM] schemes more accessible to tenant farmers, and will continue to work closely with tenants, landlords and the wider industry to drive further positive change.

“The call for evidence is a further important step forward in achieving this and I encourage farmers, landlords and advisers to express their views to their relevant trade body to make sure experiences from all parts of the sector are heard.”

Defra has also been working to make ELM schemes more accessible to tenant farmers.

Tenant Farmers Association reaction

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, said that while they welcomed the call for evidence as another step forward in implementing the recommendations of the Rock Review, it was disappointing that it was a review seeking more evidence of the need for a commissioner.

Mr Dunn said: “The report of the Rock Review was based on a solid programme of evidence gathering over a nine-month period involving meetings right across the country.

“The Rock Review report was written based on that evidence gathered and, as a result, called for the establishment of a tenant farming commissioner to supercharge the need for a greater degree of collaboration, fairness, and accountability within the sector.”

He added: “It is a common trait of the Whitehall civil service machine to continually ask for more evidence when it really doesn’t want to make the change that is blindingly obvious.

“I do hope that this is not the case here and that Defra will take seriously the need for a tenant farming commissioner in England to ensure the long-term health and resilience of the let sector of agriculture.”