Lochhead eager to create tenancy opportunities
AFTER symbolically handing over the keys to Scotland’s newest tenant farmers, Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead promised that more tenancies would be created on publicly-owned land later this year.
Craig Malone, from Stirling, and Zander Hughes, from Dunfermline, beat off stiff competition from 30 others to get the ten-year tenancies at Pitcairn and Dundonald farms respectively in West Fife. Both farms are owned by the Forestry Commission.
Speaking on Dundonald Farm, where the ceremony took place, Lochhead said the success of farming depended on being able to attract entrants.
Later this year, he said, the Forestry Commission would make another three “starter” farms available for letting, two of those would be in Dumfriesshire and the third in Aberdeenshire. Beyond that, Lochhead said, it was looking at a “dozen other possibilities”.
The minister stressed that it was not just the public sector which should be considering letting more land. He hoped it would be incumbent upon all landowners, both public and private, to look at how they could create tenancies.
Listening to the minister, Doug McAdam, the chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, said this was already happening. He referred to a survey published last week showing that large estates already let 70 per cent of their land. He said he wanted to encourage mid-level estates to do more. “There is a lot of focus on making more land available, but of equal importance is freeing up existing land in tenancies. Our recent survey showed that there were a significant number of tenant farmers with no successor but who were past retirement age and who are not retiring.
“I think there is pretty broad consensus that this area needs addressed to create more churn in existing tenancies and so to create new opportunities and movement through the tenancy ladder for new and young tenant farmers in the industry.”
Both incoming tenants talked on the tremendous opportunity they would be getting on the land. Hughes will be working Dundonald as an arable unit, cropping barley, wheat and spring oats. He is a technical manager with Bayer CropScience and he will continue with that as well as working the farm.
On the other hand, Malone will work Pitcairn as a livestock unit buying in Limousin cross British Blue heifers, bulling them and then selling the cows and calves.
He will also buy in draft Blackfaces and put them to a Bluefaced Leicester tup with a view to building up a Scotch Mule flock. With that unit being considered part-time, he will continue to work as a self-employed stockman but more immediately he will be competing in the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, where he has previously shown his ability with livestock by twice exhibiting the overall commercial cattle champion.
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