17 May 1996

Affordable rural houses must be a high priority

"WE must create a structure for jobs and opportunities for affordable housing," said Agriculture and Rural Affairs Steering Group chairman Lloyd Picton Davies. "The lack of housing is sometimes overlooked in planning regulations," said Mr Picton Davies, who also expressed the federations concern about planning policies which prevented the conversion of traditional buildings to industrial and office units that could provide rural employment. The reduction in rural public transport is another matter of concern.

NFYFC was one of the organisations involved with the creation of farm business tenancies, which came into effect with the 1995 Agricultural Tenancies Act. While high tender values seem to be keeping out new entrants, said Mr Picton Davies, who is currently agreeing his second farm business tenancy, he was confident that those with the appropriate education and experience could succeed.

"High tender rents are not due to the logistics of the farm business tenancy," he said, "but to the increased level of agricultural subsidy being injected into the pockets of existing farmers. Unfortunately this keeps the inefficient farmers in the industry and at the same time acts as a barrier to new entrants."

The government must be encouraged to introduce the EU retirement scheme to provide openings for new entrants and provide an escape route for those who cannot afford to retire, he said.

The sale of county council smallholdings takes away many young peoples first step on the farming ladder. "I can confirm that our committee is making every effort possible to persuade county councillors that it is not in the interests of the rural community for this to take place," he said.

Opportunities for young agriculturalists could come through the Rural Starters Register, a new initiative in which NFYFC has joined forces with the Tenant Farmers Association and the Country Landowners Association. A database of aspiring new entrants is being set up and their details can be made available to those providing business opportunities such as farm business tenancy arrangements, share farming or contracting agreements, or diversification projects.

CAP reform is a long-term concern for young farmers. The EU must reduce restrictions and allow farmers to grasp every opportunity to gain a higher market share, said Mr Picton Davies. The next generation of farmers must be able to compete on a level playing field with access to world markets. "We do not want to be cosseted, we just want the chance to begin to compete," he said.

Lloyd Picton Davies: We want the chance to compete on world markets.