A post-Brexit agricultural policy which offers new opportunities to young farmers is critical to the survival of the industry, says Yorkshire mixed farmer Olivia Richardson.
With the price of land hitting record highs while tenancy rents dramatically increase and show no sign of slowing down, what is a British agricultural sector going to look like post-Brexit for young, enthusiastic new entrants into farming? A distant dream or simply an impossibility?
How do passionate individuals get a step on this elusive ladder ensuring security for their future?
Recently, a good friend who has successfully established and run his own contracting business for many years saw an opportunity to take on the tenancy of a local arable farm with well-maintained out buildings.
At the age of 30, the setup, location and acreage suited his progressive business ideas down to the ground, and for a short while he allowed himself to hope.
But after attending an open day with many other potential tenants arriving with their better halves and children in tow, or in new ’18 reg pickups plastered with large contracting logos over them, he asked what was the point?
They could easily offer more rent per acre, but my friend knew he wanted to make this farm his forever home and one day bring to it a wife and children.
First of all, though, he needed a plan – and a good one at that. A business plan worthy of demonstrating his high aspirations and a financial plan to manage his volatility, while allowing him to boost his productivity. Not an overnight task.
The bank supported him, offering a sizable loan, his family backed him, acting as a guarantor, and he had several letters of support written and waiting for the application.
But the application never went in.
This passionate, aspirational, successful young farmer could not believe our current agricultural policy would provide for the younger generation, ensuring a fair chance at a tenancy rather than relying on money talking.
Will Brexit change this? What needs to be done between now and March 29 2019 to secure a positive future for our agricultural industry and the future farmers who will maintain it?
Long-term succession plans are an obvious starting point for me. There is a lot to be learnt from those who have created their livelihood from the land, and in my opinion that knowledge is best not wasted.
Firm plans need to be in place about who is going to be the successor and if that person is not known, then this provides the perfect opportunity to take on a young farmer, teach them what has been proven to work but also what has not, continuously planning for progression.
Brexit has to allow our industry to meet the challenges ahead, and in that we need to see opportunities to develop the next generation into successful, resilient business people as well as passionate farmers.