The current population of UK farmers is an ageing one, and as a consequence we are facing a major renewal crisis in farming and food production.
New Entrants – who are eager to replace retiring farmers and rejuvenate the sector – currently face multiple barriers to entry, including the ever-increasing price of farmland, a near absence of starter farm opportunities, a lack of suitable training and funding, and the discouraging ongoing sell-off of county farms. Not only do we face a crisis of renewal, but also a crisis of diversity and accessibility, with the farming sector statistically the least diverse employment sector in the UK.
There is therefore an urgent need for the UK government and devolved administrations to acknowledge these issues, and to implement policy which supports young and diverse New Entrants into farming. We have therefore developed a number of targeted policies which support New Entrants which include increased funding and support for on-farm agroecological training and apprenticeships, a capital grant scheme to overcome some of the barriers to entry, and a land access scheme to both support organisations providing farm incubation opportunities and to put a stop to the sell-off of council owned farm estates. We are also working with several other organisations to guide and inform Defra’s New Entrants Support Scheme, to be launched in 2022.