Access to farm labour is getting increasingly complicated due to the ‘demographic time bomb’ facing the industry.
Julian Gold, farm manager of Hendred Estate, Oxfordshire, said because the majority of farmers or farm workers were male and over the age of 65, there was a growing shortage of ‘good solid farm labour’ as new entrants leave college wanting to be a farm manager.
He told a farm labour seminar at Oxford Real Farming Conference the industry was falling short on labour as older farmers started to retire.
“There is a lot of young labour coming out of agricultural universities wanting to be farm managers, but there is a shortage of good farm labour,” Mr Gold said.
“There is a real ’go forwards’ and we are potentially coming short as old people retire to try and push people in, but we need them in proper farm work rather than training them to be managers.”
Mr Gold said as an employer, he would be on a constant lookout to minimise labour issues but if post-Brexit labour became ‘scarce and more expensive’ it would accelerate a trend for more mechanism which he said would fail to deliver the environmental goods ‘we are going to get paid for’.
Professor Tim Laing of food policy at City University, London, agreed the industry must be wary when suggesting technology as the answer as it instead tailored land use to technology ‘rather than biodiversity’.
He added: “This is a battle about food democracy verses food control. The problem is enormous.”