Tenant Farming Rent Review Survey: final report

This report presents the findings from a Tenant Farming Rent Review Survey. The research explores tenant farmers’ views and experiences of the current process of rent reviews.

1. Introduction

1.1. Introduction

This report provides an overview of the key findings of a survey of tenant farmers carried out by Research Resource on behalf of the Rural & Environmental Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) of the Scottish Government.

1.2. Background

Tenant farming represents an important part of Scottish agriculture as more than one-fifth (22%) of all farmed land is rented.[3]

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 brought forward a number of legal changes to agricultural holdings legislation, following recommendations made by the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group (AHLRG) in their Final Report, titled 'Review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation' (2015).[4] The report indicated that there was a degree of stakeholder dissatisfaction in particular with the process for agreeing fair and reasonable rents.

One element was to introduce a new process of undertaking rent reviews. Following discussions with key stakeholders and the Tenant Farming Commissioner, the Scottish Government commissioned this research to directly seek the views of tenant farmers on the current rent review process

A code of practice has been issued by Scotland's Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) on conducting rent reviews which outlines guidelines that should be followed to ensure that landlords and tenants reach agreements on rent in a fair and transparent manner.[5]

Research Resource, on behalf of the Scottish Government, carried out a survey of tenant farmers in Scotland in order to seek views from this group on the current rent review system, which is legislated for in Section 13 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991.

1.3. Aims and Objectives

The key objective of the survey was to directly seek tenant farmers' views on the current rent review process.

Specifically, the research was designed to address the following questions:

  • How often do rent reviews take place and when was the rent last reviewed?
  • To what extent are tenant farmers satisfied with the process of rent reviews, particularly in relation to frequency, timing and who they are carried out by?
  • What can be done to improve tenant farmers' experiences of the rent review process?
  • To what extent are tenant farmers satisfied with their relationship with the landowner?
  • What can be done to improve the rent negotiation process between tenant farmers, landowners and their agents?

The research was designed to capture measurable and consistently collected data in order to provide a robust and reliable evidence base to inform any decisions regarding the rent review process going forward.

1.4. Research Method

The survey was carried out using a mixed methodology comprising a combination of postal, online and telephone interviews.

A self completion survey was sent to 5,268 tenant farmers on 20th April 2021. The database of tenant farmers was sourced from the Scottish Government's June Agricultural Census. The database did not include crofters or seasonal lets.

The final research questions and survey design was developed in discussion with and agreed by stakeholders through the Research Advisory Group (RAG), which included representatives from the National Farmers' Union of Scotland (NFUS), the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) and the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association (SAAVA).

Cognitive testing was carried out with a group of tenant farmers recruited by the RAG stakeholders at an online focus group. The purpose of this was to test the questionnaire to investigate the way respondents understood, processed and responded to questions and to explore whether the questions, response options and any instructions were interpreted as intended. Stakeholders were asked to complete the survey themselves and this was followed up with a detailed discussion in order to understand tenant farmers' perceptions of the questionnaire, and to identify any potential challenges they may face in completing it. The findings from this exercise were then fed back to the Project Manager along with recommendations on how the survey could be adjusted in order to improve the quality of data or response rates.

A copy of the questionnaire is provided in Annex 1. The front page of the questionnaire included a link to an online version which could be completed in place of the postal survey if desired. A further 8 tenant farmers requested a questionnaire to be sent as they did not recall receiving the initial survey invitation by post. These tenant farmers were sent a link to the online survey for completion.

Telephone research was then carried out with a sample of tenant farmers in order to increase the response rate to the survey and ensure that as representative a response as possible was achieved. Tenant farmers from underrepresented regions or farm types that had low response rates were targeted by telephone in an attempt to boost the response rate for these respondents and reduce the impact of non-response bias on the survey results. The telephone research was carried out between 17th and 31st May 2021.

1.5. Sample Size

A total of 1,025 responses were received, a 20% response rate from the tenant farmer population. Of these responses, 80% (816 responses) were completed by post, 16% were completed by telephone (166 responses) and 4% were submitted online (43 responses). This overall level of return provides robust data, accurate to +/-2.73% of the overall tenant farmer level (based upon the 95% level of confidence and a 50% estimate). Analysis of subgroups will be less robust. Please see Annex 2 for the level of confidence on different estimates and for subgroup analysis.

Of the initial 5,268 tenant farmer addresses, 243 were returned as undeliverable or were considered out of scope for some other reason such as the land no longer being farmed, no longer rented or the named respondent had died. 1,025 responses is therefore a 20% response rate from the tenant farmer population.

Table 1.1 below shows the number of interviews achieved and the response rate by geographical area according to the Agricultural Census. As shown, the response rate was much lower in the Highlands and Islands than in other areas. The results were therefore weighted to reflect the distribution of tenant farmers by regional location. The final column in the table shows the weighted profile of responses by broad geographical area.

Table 1.1 Respondents by area
  Total tenant farming population % of tenant farming population Interviews Unweighted % Response rate Weighted %
Central Scotland[6] 1175 23.4% 237 23.1% 20.2% 23.4%
Highlands and Islands 1748 34.8% 257 25.1% 14.7% 34.8%
North East Scotland 770 15.3% 193 18.8% 25.1% 15.3%
Southern Scotland 1331 26.5% 338 33.0% 25.4% 26.5%
Grand Total 5024 100.0% 1025 100.0% 20.4% 100.0%
Table 1.2 Respondents by farm type
  Total tenant farming population % of tenant farming population Interviews Unweighted % Response rate Weighted %
General cropping 335 6.7% 89 8.7% 26.6% 8.5%
General cropping; forage 903 18.1% 98 9.6% 10.9% 10.6%
LFA Cattle & Sheep 2175 43.7% 471 46.0% 21.7% 46.8%
Mixed holdings 521 10.5% 149 14.5% 28.6% 14.0%
Non-LFA Cattle & Sheep 376 7.5% 72 7.0% 19.1% 6.4%
Specialist cereals 355 7.1% 86 8.4% 24.2% 8.1%
Specialist dairy 161 3.2% 37 3.6% 23.0% 3.1%
Specialist horticulture & permanent crops 48 1.0% 12 1.2% 25.0% 1.2%
Specialist pigs 28 0.6% 3 0.3% 10.7% 0.3%
Specialist poultry 34 0.7% 2 0.2% 5.9% 0.2%
Unclassified 45 0.9% 3 0.3% 6.7% 0.4%
Grand Total 4981 100.0% 1022 100.0% 20.6% 100.0%

1.6. Interpreting results

When reporting the data in this document, in general, percentages in tables have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Columns may not add to 100% because of rounding or where multiple responses to a question are possible.

All tables have a descriptive and numerical base, showing the respondent population or population subgroup examined in it. Due to the self-completion nature of the survey, the base for each question varies slightly. Where respondents have left a question blank, these have generally been excluded from the base.


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