Farmers Weekly caught up with David Fursdon – chairman of DEFRA’s Future of Farming Review – at the YFC AGM in Blackpool, Lancashire.

Why are you here? 


The Future of Farming Review is about getting views from different sectors of the industry, and young farmers are a key component of that. It’s difficult to get a unified young farmers’ view. What I’m doing is encouraging people to tell me what they think. It’ll give me a feel for what the consensus might be.

You’ve met lots of young farmers through the review – what makes the AGM different?

I’ve met lots of young people in lots of environments, but it’s great when you see them in a different place. The great thing about Blackpool is that it’s so “un-farmy”. It’s great seeing people out of their home patch.  
 


In a recent column in Farmers Weekly, Matthew Naylor said young farmers don’t need more help. What was your response to that? 


Matthew Naylor’s column elicited strong feeling on both sides of the fence, and that’s what it’s about – airing the debate. It reminds people that farming is not a free lunch for everybody. There are still a lot of people succeeding their family farms or tenancy, and they have an advantage over those who don’t get that chance. What we’re about is trying to level up the playing field a bit. Maybe some good people don’t get a chance and we’re trying to see whether we can do something about it. However, there’s no money from government, there’s no pot of gold which makes it a challenging job. 
 


Matthew Naylor’s column elicited strong feeling on both sides of the fence, and that’s what it’s about – airing the debate. It reminds people that farming is not a free lunch for everybody. There are still a lot of people succeeding their family farms or tenancy, and they have an advantage over those who don’t get that chance. What we’re about is trying to level up the playing field a bit.
David Fursdon

You’re several months into the review now – are any key themes emerging? 


Yes. One of the tensions is that you don’t get new opportunities without someone leaving the industry. The second is a tension between making space for new entrants and allowing existing people to expand to get economies of scale. 
 

Do you think that new entrants should receive financial support/SFP to help with starting out? (From @FarmerBeary) 

How the CAP will help or hinder new entrants is one of the issues we’re looking at. We haven’t reached a conclusion. The question of finance is another issue. It’s much more difficult to get a loan when someone hasn’t even started because they have no track record. We’ve recognised that as a problem. 
 


What will happen to upland family farms after CAP reform? (From @1GarethWynJones)  

Most upland farms need the single farm payment and environment payments to survive and we recognise that.  If you take them away we’ve got some real challenges.

The Future of Farming Review is a nationwide review exploring the barriers preventing young people building successful careers in farming. The group will be delivering their conclusions by early July.

More from the YFC AGM

For photographs, videos and the latest news from the Young  Farmers Conference in Blackpool see our dedicated page.