Scotland

Royal Bank of Scotland urges action to aid young farmers

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Media captionRBS wants to see more support for people struggling to get into the farming industry

A bank has called for a summit to address the problems faced by young people trying to get into farming.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has identified barriers which starter farmers are struggling with, including the physical size of modern farms.

Bigger farms are often unaffordable when they come on the market and are being bought up by neighbours.

RBS wants more joined-up action to help unlock the potential it says young farmers can bring.

New farmer John Matheson has a hundred suckler cows in a twisting, steep sided glen on the River Deveron in Aberdeenshire.

He has been there for just eighteen months, despite wanting his own farm since the age of eight. He is now in his 50s.

John previously had livestock on rented grass but the locations were spread far and wide meaning a drive of almost 30 miles each day to tend them.

Image caption John Matheson has wanted to own a farm since the age of eight

He said: "I can now get up in the morning at seven o'clock and I'm finished feeding and have seen everything by nine in the morning.

"It makes a tremendous difference. I can manage the cattle better because obviously they're here so if there's something ill or sick it can be treated on the spot there and then.

"The management's just so much easier."

The report from the Royal Bank of Scotland - Harvesting the Future for Young Farmers - surveyed 500 new entrants, about of half of them in Scotland.

It identified three key challenges:

  • Dead Man's Shoes Syndrome, where younger generations are struggling to prise the farm from their fathers' hands
  • The growing size of farms means those which do come on the market are financially inaccessible. They often fall into the hands of established neighbouring farmers
  • Access to funding and support to help develop the business
Image caption The report from RBS highlights the problem of large farms being unaffordable when they come on to the market

Duncan Morrison, vice-chairman of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers, has held his tenancy near Torphins since November but has been building up his stock of beef cows for several years.

Without stock, he does not think he would have secured the tenancy and considers himself one of the lucky ones.

The report's findings come as no surprise and he wants to see solutions.

He said: "The more young people you've got in an industry, it's always a positive, because you've got young people bringing in new ideas and fresh enthusiasm.

"The average age of a farmer is 58 now, I think, and it's not really good. You need younger people coming in and taking the pressure off the older guys."

The report accepts that young farmers can improve innovation. They're also taking advantage of new opportunities like crowdfunding, it says.

Image caption Mr Matheson had previously rented grass for his herd of suckler cows

The head of agriculture at the Royal Bank of Scotland, Ian Burrow, is calling for a summit involving industry, governments and the banking sector.

He said: "It's getting better, yes. We're actually undertaking lots of business planning workshops and we're identifying, through the network of agricultural specialists we've got, a willingness to learn and understand.

"The quality of business reports and business cases we're seeing is improving on a week-by-week basis."

But there are many potential farmers who are not getting the opportunity to farm.

RBS says a summit could bring governments, the industry and the banking sector together to try to address some of the issues its report has highlighted.

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