Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, gives an update on the latest his latest Guide to Tree Planting on Tenanted Agricultural Holdings.
With the current economic uncertainty surrounding agriculture, and increased pressure on business margins, more farm operations are looking to diversify into a range of different non-agricultural activities for future security.
This, along with a focus by Scottish Government on increasing woodland in Scotland, is causing more farmers and landowners to consider the pros and cons of woodland creation.
This new Guide outlines the rights of both tenants and landlords to plant trees and provides information on applying for permission to plant.
Importantly, a tenant of a secure tenancy or a limited duration tenancy wishing to use the land for a non-agricultural purpose such as tree planting can now do so provided they obtain written consent for diversification activity.
Before 2003 a tenant had no right to plant trees on the holding or, if they did, had no right to harvest them.
The guide also provides information about ‘waygo’ compensation.
This determines whether a tenant or landowner might be entitled to compensation depending on whether the planting has increased or decreased value of the land.
A tenant is entitled to compensation when the value of the trees is more than the loss of rent to the landlord in retaining the trees until their likely date of cropping plus the cost to the landlord of returning the land to agricultural use.
If the assessed value of the trees is less than this, the landlord will be entitled to compensation from the tenant to the value of the difference.
The trees should be valued on the basis of their worth to a willing purchaser for future cropping.
This is an important and potentially decisive issues affecting a tenant’s willingness to plant trees.
If a tenant were to quit the holdings when the trees are still pre-harvesting age, and given that the cost of returning the land to agriculture could be significant, the tenant may find that they have to pay compensation to the landlord so it is important that all aspects and implications are carefully considered at the outset.
As with most forms of diversification, a tenant needs to ensure correct procedures are followed and that any necessary consents are obtained.
Since tree planting is a long-term business that will affect the land use and associated costs and incomes well into the future, tenants are advised to discuss their plans at an early stage with their landlord so that discussions can take place around the best way to achieve the most favourable outcome for both parties.
Similarly, landlords who would like to see more woodland on their land have the opportunity to discuss a variety of business arrangements with the tenant in order to achieve this.