The report highlighted the need for an ability to trade profitably.
Young farmers would like any future British agricultural policy to move away from an area-based payment to something which provided business grants and loans.
The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) embarked on a survey earlier this year looking at a future British agricultural policy as the UK renegotiates its position away from the EU.
The survey offered young farmers the chance to voice their opinions on major questions which could impact new entrants when establishing their farming businesses.
The key findings in the report suggested most respondents believed subsidies should continue, but only for a limited time, while 68 per cent of respondents chose to maintain current animal welfare standards, with 49 per cent opting to maintain current UK environmental standards for marketing reasons.
- Lynsey Martin, Kent FYFC
Highlighting the need for an ability to trade profitably, respondents said they hoped to maintain consumer confidence and protect the industry from the ‘actions of irresponsible farmers’.
The 184 participants were questioned on their ideas for a future British agricultural policy, covering five key areas, including future farm business culture, employment skills and training, farming regulations, building farm businesses and farming subsidies.
Respondents expressed their concern over the ‘unfairness’ of current subsidies which some felt benefited landowners who actively farmed land.
The NFYFC report suggested those at the foot of the farming ladder were not supported by current systems, which were only offered to landowners and farmers who had control of land.
Almost half (46 per cent) of the surveyed participants opted for some sort of subsidy to continue, but only for a limited time, with most hoping for a reduction or removal of area-based subsidy payments to be replaced with a support scheme through grants or loans for farm business investments.
The second most popular choice was a move towards paying farmers based on their farm output or productivity.
Lynsey Martin of Kent FYFC said: “If the subsidy system is supposed to help farming become more dynamic, to contribute to public good and benefits, it might do this better if it were not so inextricably tied to land ownership, but instead addressed the business needs of established farmers and new entrants alike.”
Participants were questioned on what they thought to be most important in the next five years of their farm business career – finance for farm investments, farm land or buildings, working capital or availability of ‘other resources’.
While 39 per cent opted for availability of finance for farm investments, all four factors were seen as significantly important to a large section of respondents, although many expressed frustrations businesses with no interest in farming were holding onto land to gain tax advantages and claim subsidy.
There was an opinion that the Basic Payment Scheme encourages older generations to hold onto farms and farmland rather than passing it to younger farmers, with some frustration that businesses with no interest in farming were holding on to land to gain tax-advantages or subsidies.
An unnamed survey respondent said: “To be able to start or expand a business as a young person without financial backing, access to an overdraft and small loans is essential.
"Without being able to borrow money, it would become almost impossible for a young person to get into farming.”
Most young farmers opted to maintain current animal welfare standards and UK environmental regulations for the future in parity with the EU, rather than enhance or repeal them.
Reasons provided by respondents for the choices related to markets and the ability to trade profitably, whether by maintaining confidence of customers, exploiting ‘higher welfare’ attributes of meat produced in the UK or by competing with imports from outside the EU.
NFYFC national chairman Chris Manley said: “Whatever changes are made to farming regulations, especially those on farm animal welfare and the farmed environment, we need to ensure our principal markets in the UK and in the EU are not damaged.
"We need to maintain customer confidence and build on the fantastic progress UK farming has made over the last two decades.”
The survey highlighted an ‘acute awareness’ that the buying power of large food businesses could place significant downward pressure on farmgate prices, making farming a much less attractive option for young people.
There were 47 per cent of respondents saying they intended to supply to both retailers and processors and direct to consumers, and 67 per cent said they would trade individually and directly with buyers through a pragmatic, business-minded approach.
Over two-thirds of all participants said they envisaged themselves as future employers, although around three-quarters of these thought they would find difficulties in finding the right sort of employee.
Business administration skills topped the vote for the most important skill to develop a future farm business, as opposed to technical and operational skills.