Agriculture & Rural Property

Publish date

7 February 2024

How has the Government responded to help tenant farmers since the Rock Review?

The tenant farming community is of huge importance to the farming sector as a whole. Against this backdrop, the Tenancy Working Group, chaired by Baroness Rock, was established with two main objectives. Firstly, to consider accessibility to the government’s financial schemes and the need for them to be open and flexible for tenant farmers. Secondly, to look at long-term changes needed to ensure a flourishing agricultural tenanted sector for the future.

The Rock Review published its findings in October 2022. Details of these can be found in an earlier article by Rob Trench, here. The Government subsequently responded to the recommendations laid out in the review, promising to introduce new measures where “tenant farmers will be at the heart of the government’s work to grow and support the rural economy.”

What measures have been introduced following the Rock Review?

The Government agreed with the review’s key recommendations and since its response to the review in May 2023 has introduced a number of measures.

Farm Tenancy Forum has been established to support the implementation of the government response to the Rock Review. This includes members from organisations that represent tenant farmers, landlords and professional advisers working in the sector, such as The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The forum, which had its first meeting in July 2023, has a focus on exploring all issues relating to the tenant farming sector in England and providing ongoing engagement and feedback between Defra and the tenanted sector.

The forum is also working with Defra to produce a new code of practice  setting standards of responsible conduct for all parties to tenancy agreements. The code will outline standards of expected behaviour to help encourage more collaborative tenant-landlord relationships.

RICS is leading on developing the new code, with input from industry bodies including the Tenant Farmers Association, the Country Land and Business Association, the National Farmers Union, the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers and the Agricultural Law Association. It is not yet known when the new code will be published.

The Government also launched a call for evidence in November 2023. The purpose of this is to “explore the proposal for a Tenant Farming Commissioner and encourage more collaborative tenant-landlord and advisor relationships.”

The call for evidence is running for 12 weeks until 8 February 2024. Industry trade organisations and professional bodies representing the views and interests of tenant farmers, landlords and professional advisors, have been invited to respond.

What else has the Government pledged to do in response to the Rock Review?

In addition to the above measures, which are already underway, the Government has also committed to:

“Offering more actions on three-year agreements under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) without requiring landlord consent from 2024.

“Encouraging collaboration with a wide range of land managers, including tenant farmers, through our Landscape Recovery Scheme.

“Exploring support for new entrants through a pilot scheme earlier this year where over 80% of participants who took part came from a non-farming family background. The pilots looked at how we can best support people to enter the sector and increase their opportunities to access land and finance, including support on pitching for tenancies.

“Tracking data on the amount of land in the tenanted sector to pick up any emerging trends on land resumption and looking for ways to identify drivers of change.”

The impact of the measures that have already been implemented, as well as those due to be introduced, remains to be seen. However, it is encouraging for the sector that there does seem to be a genuine desire to implement change. We will be following developments in this area closely, and will produce further updates. In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of the topics raised, please get in touch.



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