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Written Statement - The Next Generation into Farming

Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food

I welcome Malcolm Thomas’ The Next Generation into Farming report commissioned by the Welsh Government, to complement the work of the Independent Review into the Resilience of Welsh Farming by Kevin Roberts and Gareth Williams’ Working Smarter report.  

Evidence clearly suggests that mobility within the industry is essential if we are to continue to build an innovative, market focused and profitable farming industry in Wales. The current Young Entrant Support Scheme (YESS) has helped individuals but also helped raise the profile of this important agenda and has stimulated much debate across the industry. Malcolm’s report gives a number of clear recommendations on what a future YESS Programme should include and my officials have been working closely with stakeholders to develop a package of support for inclusion in the next Wales Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014 - 2020.

I am encouraged that the industry is taking action, alongside Government, to help push opportunities for further mobility within the industry, including  the  FUW Autumn Conference on joint ventures in farming that took place last week, and the practical  support offered through the CLA’s booklet “An Option for Enterprising Farms” and NFU Cymru’s “Moving the Industry Forward”. I will continue to work closely with the industry to make these opportunities a reality.

The issue of encouraging new entrants and new blood into the agricultural industry has been a topic of discussion for several years, if not decades, and I am pleased that the new Rural Development Regulations support our desire to see more mobility within the agriculture industry. I am keen to listen to the opinions of young people in terms of how they see the future of agriculture. Working in partnership with the Wales YFC, I want to explore the potential of a Young People’s Panel where I and my officials can be challenged on our policies to ensure we are creating an environment where the next generation of farmers can prosper. However, this does not just apply to young farmers. In order to develop an industry that embraces mobility, support needs to be provided for all ages and all skill levels. There are significant opportunities under the next RDP to further focus on business startup support, business planning, up-skilling, leadership and investment, which we must take full advantage of.

I am also encouraged by the attitude of many other farmers I meet, including the Farming Connect Agri Academy Leadership Programme 2014 that I met last week. These committed, enthusiastic and skilled individuals are desperately keen to play their part in leading the industry and in helping to bring in and bring on the new talent that any successful industry counts on for success.  

At the same time as considering support for new entrants to the industry, we need to consider what support is needed for those wishing to downscale their business or exit completely. That is why I very much welcome the Joint Opportunities Platform detailed in Malcolm’s report and have instructed my officials to scope out this work.

Tenancy and taxation legislation can act as real barriers to creating the stimulus to economic growth and to facilitating new entrants into the industry and for that reason I will raise the issue with the UK Government in the near future.

I wish to record my sincere thanks to Malcolm Thomas MBE and others who helped inform this important piece of work.