Tenant farmers could be hit by new rewilding incentives, union warns

National Farmers Union official says it could become ‘attractive’ for landowners ‘to take land back’

Zoe Tidman
Friday 07 January 2022 18:12 GMT
A union has warned over the potential impact of new rewilding schemes on tenant farmers
A union has warned over the potential impact of new rewilding schemes on tenant farmers (Getty Images)

Tenant farmers could be hit by a new rewilding scheme that may encourage landowners to take their land back, a union has warned.

The National Farmers Union raised concerns new financial incentives to change how land is used and restore habitats could threaten this group.

“We’re hearing that some landlords are saying they don’t need tenants and they are going to be putting the land into nature recovery,” Tom Bradshaw, the group’s vice-president, was reported as saying by Farmers Weekly.

“Where does that leave the tenants? If we lose tenants, it would be incredibly short-sighted.”

He also told Sky News the new schemes could make it “quite attractive” for landowners “to take land back in hand” - particularly when it comes to rewilding areas and nature recovery.

It is estimated around a third of agricultural land in the UK is rented.

Earlier this week, the government announced new schemes to pay farmers and landowners to take action to benefit the environment. These would restore up to 300,000 hectares of natural habitat within two decades, the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

One of these was the Landscape Recovery scheme, which offers financial incentives to landowners and managers who want to change how land is used or restore habitats and ecosystems.

The government said this could cover the creation of new nature reserves, woodland and wetlands, as well as the restoration of floodplains.

Speaking to the BBC’s Farming Today after the scheme’s announcement, Mr Bradshaw from the National Farmers Union said it was about “taking whole farms and substantially changing the land use”.

“That is where our fear is for the tenant farmers that might be on some of those estates or some of those farming areas,” he said.

Another scheme announced this week called Local Nature Recovery will pay farmers to make space for nature – for example, by creating wildlife habitat and planting trees – both in farmed landscape and the wider countryside.

George Eustice, the environment secretary, said: “Through our new schemes, we are going to work with farmers and land managers to halt the decline in species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature.”

He added: “Farmers will be able to choose which scheme or combination of schemes works best for their business, and we will support them to do so.”

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