County councils in Wales have been urged to halt the sell-off of farms because rising private sector land and rental values are deterring new entrants.

The call was made by tenant farmer and chairman of the Farmers Union of Wales’ younger voice for farming committee Darren Williams.

Mr Williams said county council holdings were a “valuable and essential” route into farming for young people in Wales.

He has written to every local authority in Wales asking them to consider retaining existing farms in their ownership and to stop reducing the length of tenancy agreements.

The 1970 Agriculture Act specifies that local authorities should aim to provide opportunities for persons to be farmers on their own account by letting holdings to them. But in the past 11 years councils in Wales and England have sold off more than 1,000 farms.

“For many, county council holdings remain one of the only entry routes in the industry,” said Mr Williams. “They must be kept as a legacy for future generations.”

Mr Williams, who farms in Breconshire, also raised concerns that older tenants were reluctant to leave medium and larger sized holdings, preventing the next generation from accessing them.

This, he suggested, created stagnation within the industry and led to a less dynamic rural economy.

Mr Williams believed that older-generation tenants should be offered smaller farms to make way for the new generation to take on the larger holdings.

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