Agri-environment schemes bypassing working farmers
A call for a review of agri-environment schemes has been made by the Tenant Farmers Association to ensure that working farmers are not bypassed in their implementation.
TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said: “Agri-environment schemes were originally intended to target working farmers to provide funding to enable them to carry out otherwise unprofitable or costly activities for the benefit of the environment whilst being compensated for their income foregone.
"It was recognised that these activities were in addition to the high level of countryside management carried out by working farmers in their normal day-to-day performance of their farming duties,” said Mr Dunn.
However, what has happened over recent years is that in many landlord/tenant situations, it is the landlord rather than the tenant farmer who is receiving the agri-environment funding. This has been possible through the application of the concept of ‘management control’ which has increasingly led to a situation where more than one individual can potentially claim to be in ‘management control’ for the purposes of meeting scheme requirements.
“The TFA believes that the concept of ‘management control’ needs a fundamental review. Current agri-environment scheme rules allow land owners to pass on scheme conditions through contracts of tenancy whilst taking the full benefit of the scheme themselves. This is neither in the spirit of the schemes created nor in keeping with the principles of the Common Agricultural Policy which are about providing compensatory payments to working farmers for the income foregone in participating in Pillar two schemes,” said Mr Dunn.
"Even where tenants are able to access agri-environment schemes we are often faced with situations where landlords are demanding unsustainable rent increases by trying to suggest that the funding being received by tenants should be simply added to whatever profit there is from farming the holding. They fail to accept that the payments are to compensate for income foregone and that the extent of the rent increases they are seeking are therefore unjustified. Landlords agents should be taking more realistic and reasonable approaches in such rent reviews," said Mr Dunn.