Bank urges action to help young farmers progress

A NatWest survey of 500 young and potential new entrant farmers has uncovered “serious” and “unnecessary challenges” prevent people choosing and developing a career in agriculture.

And new entrants already in the industry are faced with too many obstacles that limit or prevent them to invest or diversify their businesses, according to the bank’s study.

The report, Harvesting the future for young farmers, published on Tuesday (31 January), reveals the “huge untapped potential” of young farmers who are “crucial to farming’s future”.

See also: How to find help to fund agricultural career development

High-skilled millennial farmers are tapping into new ways of working with the use of drones to monitor crops, crowdfunding for new opportunities and diversifying their businesses with projects ranging from renewables to glamping and beekeeping.

But their opportunities are stymied by succession issues, an inability to embrace new farming models, such as share farming, and obstacles to funding and resources to develop their businesses.

The NatWest report said almost 20,000 new diversification projects could be delivered by young farmers, generating £11,900 in individual income per farm.

Joined-up approach

The bank is calling for a more joined-up, cross-government approach to help unlock opportunities post Brexit.

In particular, it wants the government to create a new cabinet committee, supported by a Better Brexit Farming Strategy Taskforce, to ensure this economic potential doesn’t remain untapped.

Ian Burrow, head of agriculture at NatWest, said: “Millennial farmers are a high tech, high skilled, highly motivated group who hold a realistic picture of farming in their heads and want a career on the land.

“They are, however, seriously constrained in a number of ways.

“With Brexit further heightening these challenges and increasing uncertainty, it is important we act now.

“Unless additional investment is secured, it is unlikely that the economic potential these young people hold will be unlocked.

“Banks, government, families and communities need to come together to ensure today’s young farmers receive the support they deserve.”

Many challenges

Dairy farmer Eddie Andrew, who farms the dairy farm Our Cow Molly in Sheffield, said the report highlighted many challenges he had experienced first-hand at his farming business.

“We’ve had to forge new ways of working to survive and have successfully diversified our business, but the reality is that many farmers are really struggling so there aren’t enough examples of successful enterprises to inspire young farmers.

“I think that beyond solutions to increase profitability and productivity, everyone from families to government should place a little more confidence in young farmers to enable them to reach their full potential.”