Tenant farmers' improvements list '˜needs major update'

The current list of tenants' improvements which qualify for compensation is out of date and requires a major update to make it relevant to current farming businesses, according to one of the leading professional bodies involved in the reform of the agricultural holdings legislation.

Many items on farms are not eligible for compensation. Picture: John Devlin
Many items on farms are not eligible for compensation. Picture: John Devlin

The Scottish Agricultural Arbiters & Valuers Association (SAAVA) said that the recently launched three-year amnesty which allowed tenants to inform their landlords of improvements which had been carried out without the necessary notification had highlighted some of the major omissions to the current list – known as Schedule 5.

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Calling for this to be updated quickly for the “benefit of both landowners and farm tenants” in Scotland, the organisation’s president, Rob Forrest, said that the current criteria was based on the 1948 holdings Act – and although this provided a good base for negotiations, some significant modern improvements did not feature on the Schedule 5 list.

He said that examples of items not eligible for compensation included buildings such as slurry stores, which were often an integral part of many modern livestock units.

“An incoming tenant would not be able to continue that type of farming without such a key item,” said Forrest.

“The current amnesty which gives opportunity to establish clarity as to what is compensatable has been, and will be, a very positive development for landlord and tenant relations over the next three years,” he said.

“However, what has become apparent are ‘omissions’ in the list of improvements that qualify – and while it is unlikley that any additions will figure in the current amnesty, the changes going through with the 2016 land reform act offer us a good opportunity to update the list.”

He said some items could have involved significant investment from the tenant and it was vital that they are able to establish the compensation terms of any improvements made.

“This is why SAAVA want to ensure that the list is well debated and any required additions to the current Schedule 5 are made.”

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Forrest said that other sectors of the industry had been supportive of such a move – adding that now was the time for discussion on what should be added to take place: “While many farms will have renewables these are likely to be listed as tenant’s fixtures at the moment – but increasingly these and other forms of diversification will be viewed as an integral part of a farm business.”

Abattoir fire unlikely to hit supply chains

Alternative arrangements have been made for the estimated 6,000 pigs a week normally slaughtered at the Quality Pork Ltd (QPL) abattoir in Brechin following an unexplained fire at the weekend.

No workers or animals were injured during the incident at the plant – which opened last year after a £10 million refurbishment designed to help secure the future of pig production in Scotland.

Production is suspended at the site, which is operated jointly by Scottish Pig Producers, Scotlean and processors Tulip Ltd. However, with the damage concentrated on staff quarters and with operating lines missing the worst of the blaze, Scottish Pig Producers chief executive Andy McGowan said it was hoped the plant would be back in operation shortly.

In the meantime, Tulip said it would utilise its network of pig processing facilities across the UK in order to minimise impact on customer supply chains. The company said that agricultural, technical and commercial teams within the business would liaise with key customer contacts in respect of individual supply chains.

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Focus on high price of land

The high price of land and gaining access to start-up finance were highlighted as the two biggest challenges to those wishing to break into the agricultural industry, according to a survey by NFU Scotland.

The survey, focusing on the challenges facing the next generation of farmers and crofters, also pinpointed accessing grants, and securing opportunities for education, mentoring and advice as areas of concern.

Mark Donald, NFU Scotland’s New Generation committee chairman, said: “The next generation of farmers and crofters is critical for the future of Scottish agriculture.”