Belfast Telegraph

Young farmers 'need extra support amid Brexit market jitters'

Britain's young farmers need extra support amid market volatility and Brexit jitters to prevent them from moving to pastures new.

A NatWest survey of 500 young and potential British farmers found that a number of "serious" and "unnecessary" industry challenges are causing the number of industry entrants to fall, and blocking others from growing and diversifying their farms.

Limited succession opportunities - considering complex family dynamics and intergenerational issues - and poor access to both funding and alternative farming models are wilting enthusiasm for a career in farming, the report said.

Those challenges are being compounded by increased market volatility and uncertainty in light of Brexit.

As a result, the UK is failing to benefit from the economic potential of millennial farmers, who are open to innovation and technology, crowdfunding options and diversification into leisure and tourism, the report explained.

NatWest said that millennial farmers could deliver 20,000 diversification projects, reaping £11,900 in additional income per farm.

The report found that high-skilled millennials are open to new ways of working with products like drones to monitor crops, and are willing to diversify their farms for extra income through projects like bee keeping and offering "glamping" experiences - a more upscale version of camping for guests.

The bank is now calling for the Government to create a new cabinet committee, supported by a "Better Brexit Farming Strategy Taskforce", to ensure that economic potential can be tapped.

Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture at NatWest, said: "Millennial farmers are a high tech, high skilled, highly motivated group who hold a realistic picture of farming in their heads and want a career on the land. They are, however, seriously constrained in a number of ways.

"With Brexit further heightening these challenges and increasing uncertainty, it is important we act now.

"Unless additional investment is secured, it is unlikely that the economic potential these young people hold will be unlocked.

"Banks, government, families and communities need to come together to ensure today's young farmers receive the support they deserve."

A Government spokesman said: "Young farmers are vital to ensuring our food and farming industry continues to be world leading.

"We are committed to trebling the number of apprentices to encourage talented young people to consider food and farming as a serious career choice and will shortly be publishing our long term vision for future farming.

"We are also determined to get the best deal on Brexit for the British people - not least our farmers who play a vital role in our country, and, together with the food industry, generate £110 billion a year for our economy."