Supporting next generation farming

Successful landlord and tenant partnerships have always existed and thrived in farming, despite recent debate which may argue to the contrary.


04 November 2014

Agriculture

The Crown Estate has a diverse portfolio. With business interests in the North East and across Scotland, most of our 37,000 ha of rural land is within Moray, where we manage the Glenlivet and Fochabers estates. Our role is to make sure that the land and property we invest in and manage is sustainably worked, developed and enjoyed to deliver the best value over the long term.

We aim to run a successful business and for The Crown Estate, success is about more than revenue return. Ensuring commercial viability, environmental sustainability and strong local partnerships are all part of what makes for long-term success. In my view, an estate’s interest is well served when there is a symbiotic relationship between the owner or manager and those who work the land. There is no benefit to anyone in, nor should there ever be, a divisive relationship between a successful modern operator and an informed land manager.

For some, the issue of support for new entrants represents an easy headline, but the real substance of the debate lies in what happens on the ground, on a day to day basis. The Crown Estate aims to ensure that the next generation, whether new entrant or next generation of an existing tenant partner, are better equipped than those who precede them. We need modern, efficient and well-managed farms to deliver the multiple benefits now sought from farmer and land manager, supporting these operators is paramount for us.

The Crown Estate in the current year and in 2013/14 is investing over £750,000 in tenant’s units, and in recent years we have let eight units (totalling 3,250 acres) on the open market. Over the same period there have also been 15 new lettings (totalling 9,698 acres) allocated to next generation tenants, with an average tenancy duration of more than 13 years. But importantly, we have also converted the majority of our Ltd Partnerships to long term LDT's for the next generation – most of these tenancies are for 15 years, some are for more than 30 years.

Where we have obtained vacant possession in the last eight years, we have re-let 95% of the land on new agricultural tenancies. To my mind, securing almost 13,000 acres for next generation, often with significant financial investment from The Crown Estate, shows we have supported the sector and our partners.

The decisions made by land managers today have long-term impacts on the sector and those who seek opportunities to diversify their business must demonstrate that they can deliver wider objectives than before in order to succeed. Confidence in agriculture and in the fundamentals, such as food production, as well as new emerging opportunities, is here to stay. Long-term partnerships between farmers and land managers of the future, who share a collaborative ethos and wish to grow together, will thrive.

Agricultural and land management sectors are open for business in Scotland and have an exciting future. That future must be based on mutual respect for each other views, aspirations and desires. I'm firmly of the belief that the sector in Scotland can achieve far more through engagement and consensus than through opposition.