Wales

Royal Welsh Show: FUW urges help for young farmers

Young farmer Image copyright SolStock/Getty Images
Image caption Just 3% of farmers in Wales are under 35

The farming industry in Wales risks becoming "stagnant" unless more is done to encourage the younger generation, a union has said.

The Farmers' Union of Wales has urged the Welsh Government to introduce an action plan for young farmers.

President Glyn Roberts wants financial incentives and help so older farmers can retire and free up land.

Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said young farmers were a priority.

A debate will be held on Tuesday at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd, Powys, focusing on the barriers facing the younger generation from taking up farming as a career.

The latest Welsh Government figures suggest an ageing workforce - the average owner of a farm holding in Wales is over 60 years old - with just 3% under 35.

'Paramount importance'

Mr Roberts said there were "three important elements" which needed to be addressed.

"We need land - there have to be farms coming up for rent as someone new coming into the industry is not going to be able to buy - so it's important that council small-holdings are kept," he said.

Squeezed budgets have seen Wales' local authorities selling off farmland in recent years, a move that has alarmed farming unions.

"I had the chance when I was young to come into agriculture through being a tenant," said Mr Roberts, 62.

Reversing the loss of council-owned holdings was of "paramount importance" he said.

"The government also needs to offer some financial incentive to help young farmers get started," he said.

The third element he identified was ageing farmers who "can't afford to retire".

"They need an incentive too, so that they can step aside and make room for new entrants to come in," he said.

"Otherwise the whole industry will become stagnant, without any new thinking coming through."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCaryl Hughes explains the costs of starting in farming

CASE STUDY: CARYL HUGHES, 26

Caryl Hughes has recently taken on a 300-acre (1,200-hectare) farm near Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Wrexham.

She is set to take over as chairwoman of Montgomeryshire Young Farmers Club in August.

She comes from a farming background and needed the backing of her family's business to start out on her own.

"I've been very, very lucky because I had the farm behind me and my parents are very supportive.

"But for those who haven't got that, it's a big struggle. Bank managers are very sceptical about lending money for new farms.

"It's a big worry for young people and we're losing a lot of talented people that are going to find jobs elsewhere in other sectors."

Ms Hughes said she would like to see the Welsh Government taking measures to make it harder for established landowners and big businesses to buy up farmland which could be offered to young farmers.

She also wants to see the introduction of a match-making scheme for young and older farmers - an idea already being trialled by the National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs.

"You take a farmer looking to retire and link them up with a young farmer. It's not about kicking them out - it's about getting the skills you need to progress - there's a lot to learn before you can just jump in," she said.

WHAT DOES THE WELSH GOVERNMENT SAY?

Lesley Griffiths said the Welsh Government was working with local authorities to try to ensure their tenant farms "remain as farms and for the agricultural sector".

"Since I've come into post, I've made young farmers and new entrants a priority," she said.

More on this story