72% of young farmers believe that it will be “difficult or impossible” to move into farming due to ongoing issues in the sector.

This is according to a survey carried out by the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC), which had a sample size of 511.

NFYFC’s research, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Lantra, revealed that ongoing frustration with regulation and concerns about future prospects are impacting next generation farmers.

The ‘Route to Success’ survey highlighted continued anxiety around the future of farming and “a need for more training and business support”, the NFYFC said.

Chair of the YFC agri steering group, Charlotte Garbutt, said the report provides Defra and Lantra with an insight into the skills and support young people need for a future in the agricultural industry.

“Year on year, our surveys have indicated that new entrants are not getting the support they need to break into the industry,” she said.

“Listening to the voices of young farmers will ensure British farming does not miss out on their enthusiasm and talent”.

NFYFC’s agri steering group vice chair, Luke Cox, said young farmers find it hard to get into the agricultural industry in the UK.

“Young farmers want to continue to produce Great British food, but year-on-year the survey indicates that new entrants can’t access the support required to break into the industry.”

Young farmers

The average age of respondents to the Route to Success was 22. 45% live or work in a farming household and 31% are students. 81% of the sample are members of a YFC.

Over 85% were moderately or very influenced by their interest in farmland being managed in “environmentally sustainable ways”.

Over 80% said they were interested in farmland being managed to produce more food and were interested in environmental issues.

Many of the survey respondents reported feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and lack of knowledge when it came to the “transition away from EU-based system to England schemes”.

Almost half (49%) or those surveyed reported feeling uncertain; 8% said they felt anxious; and 29% said they needed to have more information about the proposed changes.

Defra schemes

75% of survey respondents reported being unsure about how Defra’s environment schemes were affecting them, or felt that they were not affecting them at all.

Over 68% said they had some understanding of the schemes, but needs more information about them.

10% felt they had a good understanding of the emerging Defra land management schemes.

The majority of respondents identified grants (68%) as the most important aspect of support required for delivering environmental schemes.

Encouragement of new entrants (56%) was ranked second most important, with business support (55%) and training (54%) following close behind.

Soil and business

Respondents identified soil health and business management as the two areas where they felt the greatest needs for development. These were closely followed by the issue of financial management.

NFYFC said the results indicate a need to get “back to basics” with the fundamentals of healthy soils for food production a high priority for skills development.

Director of external relations at Lantra, Corrina Urquhart, said: “Well managed and biologically active soils are the foundation of farming, representing the largest active carbon store after our oceans.

“Therefore, we are keen for further insights from young farmers to ensure our soils are fit for food production and future business opportunities.”

Urquhart said high input costs have driven some farmers to look at different systems as a way to reduce nutrient and chemical needs.

Lantra will partake in focus groups with the NFYFC to “explore this best practice in a peer-to-peer setting”, she said.

“This partnership with NFYFC is exciting. It’s positive action to better manage the soil beneath our feet for food production and a healthy environment.”