Wales

Young farmers given direct access to Welsh ministers

Photo of young farmer herding cows Image copyright BBC/Sidney Street Productions
Image caption The FUW has been calling for an action plan for the next generation of farmers

Wales' young farmers are set to work alongside government ministers to help develop future agricultural policy as part of a new forum.

Members will have access to senior politicians and officials.

A £6m grant scheme has also been announced to develop leadership skills amongst young and new entrants to farming.

The Welsh Government said it would help prepare the industry for the opportunities and challenges of Brexit.

Farming unions had been calling for an action plan for young farmers, raising fears the industry could become "stagnant" without new blood.

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

Launching the new forum and fund at the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) annual farmhouse breakfast in Cardiff Bay, Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said supporting the next generation was one of her key priorities.

"Both initiatives will sit alongside wider Welsh Government support for both young and other new entrants such as Farming Connect and the Farm Business Grant."

"Whilst there are many challenges for agriculture in Wales, I remain confident there are opportunities to develop a profitable and resilient industry that will benefit Wales' future generations."

Money is being made available as part of a budget agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Applications for grants will open in April and will be awarded to "high achieving individuals looking to establish a new business or to develop an existing one".

They will need to demonstrate they have the attributes to lead and drive change in the wider industry.

Meanwhile, the Young People in Agriculture Forum will provide young farmers with an opportunity to express their views directly to ministers, senior officials and industry bodies.

Members will be expected to work with a mentor, with the hope of fostering the farming leaders of the future.

Glyn Roberts, FUW president, welcomed the announcement.

"We need youngsters - they bring innovation, new ideas and energy into the industry," he said.

"And in the context of Brexit and the changes to come, it is the younger generation that will be more willing to change and look at the opportunities."

Dafydd Jones, vice chairman of Wales' Young Farmers Clubs agreed. "Whatever comes in future will affect us more than anyone and it's only right we have a say in that," he said.

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