THE new national chair of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has been revealed. 

Robert Martin, Cumbrian tenant farmer, started his new position on Wednesday, March 20. He took over from Mark Coulman, who served in the role for four years. 

Elected to lead the association for the next three years, Robert says it is a 'huge privilage' to be part of the team.

At the TFA annual general meeting (AGM), Robert said: “We all owe Mark, a huge debt of gratitude for all he has done as TFA National Chair.

"He led us successfully through the period of Covid-19 restrictions, played a central role in taking forward the recommendations contained within the Rock Review into agricultural tenancies and has been a major force for good in working with DEFRA to shape the new suite of post-CAP schemes, to ensure that they were accessible to tenant farmers.

“Never before has there been so much potential opportunity for the tenanted sector of agriculture in England and Wales, whilst at the same time a raft of considerable challenges."

At the AGM, Robert referenced the recommendations within the Rock Review report on agricultural tenancies. These included the work of the new Farm Tenancy Forum focusing on further tenant friendly Environmental Land Management schemes, a Code of Practice for the conduct of landlord tenant relationships within agriculture and the potential for a new Tenant Farming Commissioner.

“However, there are also some huge challenges facing the sector," he added.

"There is clearly a great deal of competition for land and the services that land can offer. In addition to food and fibre production, there is now a range of other calls on land, including for renewable energy (for example solar), Biodiversity Net Gain, tree planting, rewilding, carbon sequestration and storage, nutrient neutrality, public access and Landscape Recovery. These new markets are in addition to the traditional alternative markets available to landlords, including residential and commercial development.

"Competition for land to meet these outcomes is causing the landlord community to be much more restrictive over the lengths of term being offered to tenant farmers. This is to ensure that they are in pole position to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. 

“In addition, many landlords and landlords’ agents are seeking to use the returns that might be available from these new initiatives to exact higher levels of rent from tenant farmers who are seeking renewal of their tenancies. Where tenancy agreements are being entered into, increasingly restrictive clauses are being inserted to give the landlord reserved rights over many of the aspects needed to take advantage of new markets, particularly for natural capital.

“To my mind, the work of the TFA has never been more important than now. In representing the interests of those who do not own the land they farm, the TFA is representing the new entrants, the progressive farmers and the entrepreneurs of our industry. It is vital that policy and practice properly understands and respects the tenanted sector of agriculture if we are going to see success in creating food, environmental and energy security.

"Under my Chairmanship, the TFA will be working day in, and day out, to ensure that the needs and aspirations of the let sector of agriculture are always front and centre in the minds of policymakers and others.”