The Welsh government has announced plans to support young welsh farmers with a new scheme designed to develop leadership skills and breathe fresh air into the Welsh agricultural industry.
At present, research shows an ageing agricultural workforce – the average owner of a farm holding in Wales is over 60 years old and just 3% are under 35.
The government has made £6m available to fund the Young People into Agriculture scheme, which alongside the opportunity to benefit from start up grants, aims to help young farmers develop their leadership skills and prepare their businesses for life outside of the EU.
Applications for grants will open in April and will be awarded to “high achieving individuals looking to establish a new business or to develop an existing one”. The Grants are open to entrepreneurs under 40 years on 1 April who are looking to establish a new business or develop an existing one, and applicants will be required to demonstrate their ability to lead a dynamic business and drive change in the agricultural industry.
Funds can be used as working capital and will be paid in three instalments up until 31 March 2020, and after initial scoring against agreed criteria, applicants will need to meet agreed key performance indicators (KPIs).
Alongside the new scheme, the Welsh Government also announced a new forum which would give young welsh farmers direct access to the Government Ministers responsible for making policy decisions in Wales.
The scheme and forum were announced at the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) annual farmhouse breakfast in Cardiff Bay.
Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths explained that supporting young farmers has to be a key priority for the Welsh Government. She said:
“We need to be prepared for the challenges as we transition from the EU. The impact on our farmers is likely to be greater than for many other sectors. We must do all we can to build resilience and ensure we create an environment where business can prosper and individuals develop to become leaders of the industry.”
Glyn Roberts, FUW president, welcomed the announcement, saying:
“We need youngsters – they bring innovation, new ideas and energy into the industry – and in the context of Brexit and the changes to come, it is the younger generation that will be more willing to change and look at the opportunities.”
Swansea Agricultural Valuer, Dylan Williams of Rees Richards, Swansea said the news would give welsh farming a fantastic advantage beyond Brexit:
“Like most within the farming community, we really welcome the new initiatives, particularly for start-ups in what is an ageing industry. Although there are a number of opportunities available across Wales, the reason we see so few young people creating new agricultural businesses is largely down to the start-up costs. We have a number of agricultural premises for sale, but for a farm worker who in some instances are on minimum wage, finding premises and obtaining funding for even a modest holding are major hurdles. This means many talented young farmers leave the industry in search of higher wages – and their entrepreneurial skills go with them. The new scheme will support the brightest and best young talent in the industry and will hopefully give Welsh farming a fantastic advantage beyond Brexit.”