Wales aims to attract new entrants with £6m grant scheme

Young farmers in Wales who are struggling to secure bank loans amid uncertainty resulting from Brexit are to be offered a cash lifeline with a £6m government grant scheme.

Wales had a dedicated grant scheme for young entrants for four years from 2010 and that is set to be resurrected in a bid to attract new entrants to an industry where just 3% of farmers are aged under 35.

A new grant scheme for young entrants will be established with £2m earmarked for 2018-19 and £4m for 2019-20, said Wales’s Shadow Minister for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs Simon Thomas.

See also: A beginner’s guide to careers in agriculture and farming

During a keynote speech to his party’s annual conference in Caernarfon, Mr Thomas said the funding pledge was the result of an agreement between the Welsh government and opposition party, Plaid Cymru.

Must be accessible

Welsh upland livestock farmer Rhodri Jones, a member of the NFU Cymru next-generation policy group, said the money was needed now more than ever.

“It is not easy for young people to access money from banks to get started in farming with so much uncertainty over trade and farm support,” he said.

“We need a young, vibrant farming industry if agriculture is to have a future in Wales so if this money only helps a few people into the industry it is welcome.”

Mr Jones, who farms sheep and suckler beef with his family at Brynllech Uchaf near Llanuwchllyn, Bala, said any new money must be greeted with “open arms’’ but cautioned: “It is easy enough for a new scheme to be announced but it is only of value if that money is accessible.”

The previous Young Entrants Support Scheme (Yess) provided grants totalling £7.1m and helped over 520 young people enter the farming industry.

It applied to farmers who were based in Wales, under the age of 40 and were either setting up as head of the holding for the first time, or had set-up as head of holding within the previous 12 months.

While details of the latest scheme have yet to be unveiled, Yess provided grants of up to £15,000 and access to funded mentoring services from established farmers.