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Fresh Start launches campaign to "mend" the farming ladder

News Date: 18.05.2010

Fresh Start has launched a campaign focusing on maintaining the farming ladder to help new entrants into farming. Maintaining the farming ladder would involve retaining the County Council Farm structure as it provides an entry point into agriculture for those wanting to start a business.

 

Further details can be found in the press release below.

 

For more information on Fresh Start visit www.careerinfarming.co.uk/about-fresh-start.aspx

 

PRESS INFORMATION

 

CAMPAIGN IS LAUNCHED TO “MEND” THE FARMING LADDER

The farming ladder – the traditional route into the industry for new entrants – is now in gravedanger of being permanently broken, making it harder to attract bright young entrepreneursinto farming.

That’s the view of Sir Don Curry, policy advisor to the last Government. His concern has ledhim to launch an appeal to all landlords to retain a pool of land on which enterprising, farmentrepreneurs can develop their business ideas.

Speaking on the eve of the Fresh Start-Easton College conference; “Farming – The NextGeneration”, Sir Don said:“The first challenge is to halt the sell-off of Council holdings. That estate has to bemaintained as the first step on the ladder. But then we need the next move in place.

“I have in mind farms between 250-500 acres, depending on geographical location and farmtype, that could be retained within large estate portfolios specifically to be let on an FBT, orby an alternative arrangement, to a younger person. It might be helpful if these farms haddiversification opportunities to help ensure they were economically sustainable.”

Since the publication of the Curry Policy Commission Report in January 2002, Sir Don hasbeen concerned about how the farming sector is promoted as a career and how to createopportunities for new entrants. He helped bring together industry leaders to develop FreshStart, an initiative designed to help equip younger people to enter farming, confident in theirability and with skill set needed to take advantage of farming opportunities.

Since its launch in 2004, some 28 Fresh Start Academies have been set up, some now ontheir second and third cohorts. About 350-400 students have benefited from attendance atthe Fresh Start Academies. These successes are creating an exciting pool of talent lookingfor farming opportunities within the farming sector.

In November 2008, Sir Don wrote a report, “The Importance of the County Farms Service tothe Rural Economy”.

“It is my firm belief that the County Council Farm structure needs to be retained as it is oneof the very few entry points into agriculture for those wanting to start a business. That estateis not just an asset on the balance sheet of the appropriate Authority, but a National asset a far as the structure of agriculture is concerned..

“Many of the smaller County Council farms should only be regarded, as they were originallyintended to be, as starter units and I have been encouraging Local Authorities, using FBTs,to ensure that prospective tenants for such units be taken on with the clear understandingthat they should aim to use their “starter farm opportunity” to establish a business and moveon to larger units within an agreed timescale.

“It is this aspect of the business that now concerns me. The farming ladder, a system thathas served agriculture so well in the past, is now in danger of failing and I am, therefore,contacting institutional landowners and large estates to try to create a debate about theseconcerns” said Sir Don.“I am concerned to keep the door open to new entrants and provide a reasonable careerpath. We are well aware that many estates do provide such units but it is a temptation whenland becomes available on large estates to let it to existing tenants in order to help them todevelop businesses of scale and become sustainable. I fully respect this having served onthe Board to the Crown Estates for eight years.”

The Fresh Start initiative itself, in the form of its National Stakeholder Group, is following upSir Don’s initiative by taking its own action to seek discussions with large private andinstitutional landowners. Denis Chamberlain, Chairman of the Fresh Start NationalStakeholder Group, said that continuity of opportunity was crucial to attracting young peoplewith good commercial ideas and robust business plans.

“Thousands of holdings have disappeared in recent decades and if this trend is not reversed,we run the very significant danger of creating a closed industry with little opportunity foranyone to enter. This is not a plea for altruism but for a pragmatic and very commercialdecision to be made affecting a relatively small part of individual portfolios,” said Denis.

“We are delighted to support Sir Don’s effort to encourage landowners to consider what isproposed as a serious attempt to ensure we retain in Britain a farming ladder and that aproportion of farms are retained, strategically, to provide good business opportunities, not bychance but as a deliberate policy, by our large estates.”

Ends

For further information:

Denis Chamberlain

Chairman: Fresh Start

Tel: 07860 680800