A NUFFIELD scholar came to a surprising conclusion when he investigated the subject of short-term tenancies.

Rural surveyor Robbie Moore addressed their perceived failings because, he told the Northern Farming Conference at Hexham Mart: “Whether it’s in the areas of business planning, investment, security, high rents – which, although they are market driven, are usually disproportionate to earning capacity – or soil health, our most valuable asset is progressively coming under pressure as people look towards short-term gain.”

He had talked to farmers, industry and government representatives during trips to both California and southern Brazil, and it proved to be the latter that had provided the most positive templates.

He met one Brazilian farmer who managed 7,000 hectares on behalf of others, governed by more than 20 contracts and most subject to just one-year rents.

“He said he will only enter into an annual arrangement providing there is a long-term vision in place,” said Robbie. “And that must be based on commerciality, improving soil health and considering people.

“He draws up a management agreement that sets out his own long-term vision, what he hopes to achieve as a farmer, and that of the landowner and the two reference that agreement each year to ensure they are on track.”

In contrast, he’d met a family who had been awarded a 15-year tenancy, something previously unheard of in Brazil. The Arns were currently in year 10 and they had 250 employees working on their 2,500 hectares, producing coffee, soya, potatoes and pineapples.

“They built a school because getting people to work for them was difficult. Providing free education for their children and allotments for the employees worked.

“They knew they needed to think differently and their USP was their due diligence to considering their triple bottom line.”

While Brazil’s farms were huge, British farmers would recognise the same bottom lines, which in the Arns’ case were three-fold. Economically, there was cashflow, capital and profitability.

Environmentally, there was stewardship, soil health and water. But their ‘bottom’ bottom line was economic, environmental and social.

Robbie added: “Short-term thinking is a sin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean short-term tenancies are.”