New research has revealed the ongoing challenges and issues that are impacting the next generation of young farmers.
Regulation confusion and concerns about future careers topped this list of key issues identified by the Route to Success survey conducted The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Club (NFYFC) and supported by Defra and Lantra.
Barriers to entering the industry include finance and access to land, with 72% of respondents saying they believe it would be difficult or impossible to move into farming.
Luke Cox, NFYFC’s Vice Chair of its YFC AGRI steering group, said: “Young Farmers want to continue to produce Great British food, but year-on-year the survey indicates that new entrants can’t access the support required to break into the industry.
“Without this injection of new and exciting ideas, UK farming is going to miss out on a generation of talent and enthusiasm.”
The government’s environment schemes did not fair particularly well in the survey, with 75% of participants either unsure about them or felt the schemes were not affecting them at all. Only 10% felt they had a good understanding of the land management schemes.
Grants were identified as being the most important aspect (68%) of support required for delivering environmental schemes, whilst business support (55%), encouragement of new entrants (56%) and training (54%) also ranked highly.
The results indicate a need to get ‘back to basics’, with the fundamentals of healthy soils for food production a high priority for skills development. In response, Lantra will now review soil management training needs and explore what’s required for better understanding ecosystem services.
Corrina Urquhart joined Lantra as director of external relations at the end of 2022 after moving from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). She said: “Well managed and biologically active soils are the foundation of farming, representing the largest active carbon store after our oceans. Therefore, we are keen for further insights from young farmers to ensure our soils are fit for food production and future business opportunities.
“We know that high input costs have driven some farmers to look at different systems as a way to reduce nutrient and chemical needs and the focus groups will be a way to explore this best practice in a peer-to-peer setting.
“This partnership with NFYFC is exciting. It’s positive action to better manage the soil beneath our feet for food production and a healthy environment.”
NFYFC’s latest survey follows on from its 2020 research into young farmers’ experiences of the pandemic and the 2021 survey that focused on young farmers’ views on the future of land use. All three surveys show a continuity of findings in terms of a commitment to food production within progressive standards, a concern for food security and an acknowledgement of huge barriers for new entrants to access farming.
NFYFC hopes a cross-industry, collaborative approach to the issues raised will complement recent regional farm visits and discussions with farming businesses demonstrating financial and environmental viability.
NFYFC’s agriculture and rural issues manager Sarah Palmer said: “Positive action from three years of surveying is welcome to address the concern raised for prospects and opportunities for next generation farmers and land managers.
“Despite current uncertainty and need for more information relating to the agricultural transition highlighted in research findings, a higher percentage of survey respondents felt they were positively rather than negatively affected by the new policy framework and recognised the need for additional skills and training.
“This research, combined with the learning from the recent Defra New Entrant pilots for the design of a future scheme, will provide much-needed support for next generation aspirations.”