Unlock potential of young farmers, says Rishi Sunak

A REPORT highlighting the potential of young farmers to drive the rural economy has been backed by MP Rishi Sunak.

Mr Sunak said young farmers were one of the keys to growth in rural Britain and the country ignored their enthusiasm at its peril.

The Richmond MP sponsored a Westminster reception to launch the report - Harvesting the Future for Young Farmers - which was commissioned by Nat West Bank.

The report said young farmers hold a huge economic potential – almost 20,000 new diversification projects could be delivered by young farmers, generating £11,900 in additional income per farm. 

It said highly-skilled tech-savvy new entrants are finding innovative ways of working – from using drones for monitoring crops to the electronic identification of livestock (EID).

Entrepreneurial young farmers are tapping in to new funding opportunities such as crowdfunding and 52 per cent plan to diversify in the next two years.

But with increased market volatility and uncertainty post-Brexit, the report calls for a more joined-up, cross government, farming sector and finance framework to ensure the economic potential does not remain untapped.

It also warns that the number of young people entering the sector continues to fall while those already in it cannot grow and diversify their farms.

The report is based on a study of more than 500 young and potential new entrant farmers in Britain.

The study said key challenges to entering and succeeding in the industry included limited succession opportunities, and the industry's inability to embrace new farming models – 20 per cent of the young farmers were looking for new ways to access farming such as share farming, but ever larger farms make this difficult.

Also, access to funding and varying levels of business skills are obstacles to investment and growth – 36 per cent did not have access to sufficient advice and resources to develop their businesses.

With increased market volatility and uncertainty post-Brexit, the report calls for a more joined-up, cross government, farming sector and finance framework to ensure the economic potential does not remain untapped.

Mr Sunak said he was pleased to sponsor the report's launch, which was attended by MPs from rural constituencies like his, young farmers and represenatives of the NFU.

He said: "Whenever I meet young farmers in my constituency, I am impressed by their positive approach to their farm businesses and their willingness to adapt and change.

"But there are obstacles and we must do all we can to ensure 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."