Farming: Welsh lessons for new Scottish entrants

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FOLLOWING a visit to Wales to see how young farmers and new entrants into agriculture can get a start in the industry, a series of meeting will be held around Scotland to progress similar ideas in Scotland.

One of those who made the Welsh trip was Iain Mackay, the chairman of NFU Scotland’s new generation group, who said they had seen a number of farmers who had benefitted from the Welsh Assembly Young Farmers Scheme. He claimed the trip provided inspiration for Scotland to support new entrants and young farmers.

Another member of the group visiting Wales was Rebecca Dawes, recently appointed rural affairs manager with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC).

“One idea we picked up on was the importance of new entrants to farming having professional advice on hand,” she said. “When someone is awarded a grant, they had to nominate a mentor.

“That is someone who is either already in farming or working as a consultant so that guidance can be given and the new entrant is not left on his or her own. That appears to be hugely beneficial for new entrants coming through.”

She also thought the linkages a dairy farm had with DairyCo, the research arm of the dairy industry, provided benefits to both parties and was another example of how new entrants to farming could be helped by those already in the industry.

The group had also visited a new entrant who had been a victim of a requirement to spend the grant money in too short a period, thus in the past year having to sow grass seed at a sub optimal time.

Although several hundred miles apart, the problems for the next generation of Scottish and Welsh farmers have many similarities, with Dawes reporting a reluctance to let land and, even when that did occur, the tendency was for the landowner to let to an existing tenant.

The meetings which the NFUS and SAYFC will jointly host will not only look at lessons learned from the Welsh trip but have the bigger aim of keeping pressure on politicians to allow the next generation’s voice to be heard in the current round of common agricultural policy (CAP) negotiations.

They will start next week, Mackay saying the meetings were well timed: “CAP Reform discussions are expected to be concluded at the end of June and the debate around how those proposals are implemented at a Scottish level will begin in earnest.”

Recently elected chairman of SAYFC’s agri-affairs committee, Scott Somerville, said the meetings would also discuss future-proofing support schemes.

“We can examine the Scottish Government’s £2 million package for new entrants and the support also available under the Scottish Government’s £6 million weather aid scheme and how that may benefit new and existing businesses,” he said.