TFA issues warning over risk of using digestate

Tenant farmers who buy in digestate from anaerobic digestion plants may be putting tenancy agreements at risk.

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has been made aware that some of its members have been offered considerable amounts of digestate from AD plants.

In some cases the company selling the digestate had entered into an agreement with the farmer to install holding tanks on farms.

TFA chief executive George Dunn explained that under the arrangements the companies were retaining ownership of the tanks and securing a 24-hour right of access.

See also: Tips and pitfalls of using digestate as a crop fertiliser

“Tenants need to be extremely careful to take advice before proceeding,” Mr Dunn warned.

“The contracts for these storage units will mean that tenants will be subletting land, which is likely to be contrary to the provisions of most farm tenancy agreements.”

Even where storage units were not part of the package, it was important that tenants considered any restrictions in their tenancy agreements that may prevent them from applying digestate, Mr Dunn added.

Prescriptive tenancies

“Some tenancies are prescriptive and stipulate that digestate cannot be used at all,” he said.

“Others are vaguer and use generic terms for bought-in fertiliser, which could still encompass digestate.” 

In all of these cases, the tenant could find they are served notice by the landlord to remedy the situation.

“In the most severe situations this could be followed by a notice to quit,” Mr Dunn said.

He advised anyone who had been contacted by companies selling digestate to seek appropriate professional advice on their tenancy agreement before entering into any contracts.