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A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management; while tenant farmers contribute their labour along with at times varying amounts of capital and management. Depending on the contract, tenants can make payments to the owner either of a fixed portion of the product, in cash or in a combination. The rights the tenant has over the land, the form, and measure of the payment varies across systems (geographically and chronologically). In some systems, the tenant could be evicted at whim (tenancy at will); in others, the landowner and tenant sign a contract for a fixed number of years (tenancy for years or indenture).

Originally, tenant farmers were known as peasants. If they were bonded to the land, they were also villeins, but otherwise they were free tenants.

Great Britain

Historically, peaking in the 19th century, British rural society predominantly utilised a three tier structure of landowners (nobility, gentry, yeomenry), tenant farmers, and farmworkers. Many tenant farmers were well to do, and employed a substantial number of labourers.

In England and Wales the system of protection for tenant farmers was developed gradually from 1875 through to the consolidating legislation in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. That statute covered tenancies over agricultural land where the land was used for a trade or business and the definition of "agriculture" in section 96(1) was wide enough to include various uses that in themselves were not agricultural but were deemed so if ancillary to agriculture (eg woodlands).The essence of the code was to establish complex constraints on the landlord's ability to give notice to quit, whilst also converting fixed term tenancies into yearly tenancies at the conclusion of the fixed term.In addition, there was a uniform rent ascertainment scheme contained in section 12.Up to two compulsory occasions were available on the death or retirement of the tenant to apply to the Agricultural Land Tribunal for the grant of a new tenancy also protected by the 1986 Act.

So difficult did it become to obtain new tenancies for rental as a result of landlords' reluctance to have a tenant protected by the 1986 Act that in 1995 the government of the day, with the full support of relevant industry organisations, enacted a new market-oriented code in the form of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. The protection of the 1986 Act remains in respect of existing tenancies and those tenancies falling within section 4 of the 1995 Act. For all other tenancies granted on or after 1 September 1995 their regulation is within the 1995 Act framework. That Act was improved with effect from 18 October 2006 by the Regulatory Reform (Agricultural Tenancies)(England and Wales)Order 2006 SI 2006/2805, which also contains changes to the 1986 Act. Tenancies granted after 18 October 2006 over agricultural land used for a trade or business will fall within the limited protection of the 1995 Act so as to enjoy (provided the term is more than two years in length or there is a yearly tenancy) a mandatory minimum twelve months written notice to quit, including in respect of fixed terms.There is for all tenancies within the scope of the Act a mandatory tenants' right to remove fixtures and buildings (section 8) together with compensation for improvements (Part III). The rent review provisions in Part II may be the subject of choice to a much greater extent than previously. Disputes under the Act are usually, by the terms of Part IV, the subject of statutory arbitration controlled by the framework of the Arbitration Act 1996.

Scotlandmarker has its own independent legal system and the legislation there differs from that of England and Wales.

United States

Tenant farming was important in the U.S. from the 1870s to the present. Tenants typically bring their own tools and animals. It is distinguished from both being a "hired hand" and being a sharecropper.

A hired hand is an agricultural employee even though he or she may live on the premises and exercise a considerable amount of control over the agricultural work, such as a foreman. A sharecropper is a farm tenant who pays rent with a portion (often half) of the crop he raises and who brings little to the operation besides his family labour; the landlord usually furnishing working stock, tools, fertilizer, housing, fuel, and seed, and often providing regular advice and oversight.

Tenant farming was historically a step on the "agricultural ladder" from hired hand or sharecropper taken by young farmers as they accumulated enough experience and capital to buy land (or buy out their siblings when a farm was inherited.)



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See also

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