THE OPPORTUNITIES to farm that CAP reform will give many more young people will be countered by the shortage of affordable rural housing, a conference has been warned.

Land agent and valuer Edward Perkins made the comment at a Wales YFC organised meeting at Builth Wells on Wednesday (Oct 13).

He said that he had been approached by farmers who wanted to live on their single farm payments and let somebody else farm their land.

But they wanted to stay in their farmhouses, and this presented huge problems for would-be tenants.

While some landowners were willing in principle to help by selling land for 25% of its open market value for low cost houses, they realised the legal problems of retaining them in that sector.

Planning regulations were also a problem.

The UK needed to follow the example of the Channel Islands and set aside houses for locals, but experience there indicated that it was difficult to get a clear definition of local.

Mr Perkins forcecast that CAP reform and the 1995 Agricultural Tenancy Act would combine to make many short term tenancies available to those who could convince lending institutions that they had the ability to farm the land well, and service borrowings.

Tony Evans, a director of the consultancy firm Andersons, urged young farmers to keep open minds about starting to farm in their own right.

Instead of struggling to buy land they should look at other options, including share farming and contract farming with the landowner.

“Ask yourselves why you want to own land,” Mr Evans said.

“Asset ownership limits growth. You could end up with a 40 acre farm that is going nowhere.”

Mr Evans and Euryn Jones of Barclays Bank insisted that new entrants could get finance even though they had no proven track record.

But they must demonstrate that they possessed the experience and technical skills to farm, and could draft credible business plans.

“Banks want to help young people, but they are businesses and have to know what they will get in return,” said Mr Jones.

“The business plan must be achievable and capable of generating enough income to service what is lent.”

Leaders of both Welsh farming unions pledged to continue trying to persuade politicians to see the merit of helping new entrants to farming.

Gareth Vaughan, FUW president, claimed that new blood was vital for the industry to face up to the huge challenges resulting from CAP reform.