Tenant farmers can join in future green policy schemes

A removal of some of the ‘blockages’ which prevent tenant farmers from adopting climate change mitigation measures – including tree planting - is on the cards, the sector heard this week.

Giving this message to tenants, rural economy cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing revealed that moves were afoot to allow the sector to play its full part in future green policy schemes.

Speaking at the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association annual general meeting, Ewing said he appreciated that some in the sector were prohibited from taking up some of the options such as tree planting by either the terms of their leases or some of the current tenancy legislation.

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He told the meeting that farming had a critical role to play in addressing the climate change emergency – and that all sectors of the farming industry should be able to play their full role when major changes were introduced to the way in which the industry was supported.

“And I want that change to cement the country’s reputation for producing food in the most sustainable way.

"That is why I have drawn up a series of farmer–led groups to advise on the best way to achieve climate change and environmental ends while ensuring that the country maintains a productive and profitable farming sector.”

Promising that a tenant farmer woodland scheme was currently under consideration, he said this had been one of the many ideas thrown up in recent consultations with the industry.

The cabinet secretary also revealed that despite the recent shelving of major plans to change the way in which rental values were calculated to a system based on the productive capacity of the land, a review of the current arrangements would still go ahead.

“And while the current arrangements might remain in place in the short term I have asked the Tenant Farm Commissioner to look into further options to achieve fairness when settling farm rental values.”

He said that to help inform the discussions a research company had been hired to survey those in the tenanted sector in May to gain their views on the arrangements for rental determination.

Welcoming the news of proposals to allow tenant farmers to play their role in the fight against climate change, STFA director, Angus McCall said that it was important that those farming the 25% of the country’s land which was tenanted could do their bit.

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But he also warned that the increase in short term tenancies in recent years had done little to encourage those taking up such contracts to take a long-term view.

And he called upon those advising on future policy to consider the importance of encouraging longer term lets which would give tenants a greater feeling of guardianship over the land which they worked.

Nigel Miller, co-chair of the Farming for 1.5° group, who also addressed the meeting, agreed that a longer term approach was required.

And he added that in future, where land was let on an annual or seasonal basis, the onus should be placed on the landowner to ensure environmental outcomes were met.

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