The CLA is promoting a major new initiative in a bid to help thousands of young people get their first foot on the farming ladder.
The Association has produced a brand new handbook and free guidance booklet, providing a comprehensive overview of share farming and highlighting the key role it has to play in tackling the issues of an ageing industry profile.
Latest figures from Defra show that just under 14,000 farmers in England are aged 65 or over – accounting for almost 25 percent of the total. A further 18,000 are aged between 55 and 65 meaning more than half of the country’s farmers are more than 55 years old.
Speaking at the launch event at the Great Yorkshire Show, CLA President Henry Robinson said: “Given the ever-changing dynamics within farming, we believe it is vital for the future of the industry that new and younger entrants are given an opportunity to get a foot on the farming ladder.
“Now more than ever, we need smart and innovative land management techniques such as share farming that will provide social, environmental and economic benefits. If just a quarter of the country’s farmers aged over 65 entered in to a share farming agreement it would allow more than 3,000 new entrants to start working the land.”
Share farming differs from traditional contract farming in so far as both parties share the risk and the profits on a pre-agreed percentage. The existing farmer simply provides a proportion of his farmland for the partner to work.
According to the CLA, the problem with traditional farming arrangement is that a farmer is either in or out. Share farming provides a middle ground whereby an ageing farmer, who cannot afford to retire, can start to wind-down without having to worry about paying the bills.
CLA member Daniel Fowler, who manages his family farm in Lancashire is one such person considering a move in to share farming, which he feels will help him to tackle issues such as tax planning and succession for his 13 year old son.
He says: “Share farming agreements are a great opportunity to give us as landowners the ability to keep an element of control over the use of the holding, create a good start for a possible new entrant and to maintain a viable business whilst still keeping an interest in the farming activities carried out on our land.
“A share farming agreement is a great way of remaining involved in the rearing of livestock and operation of the holding without having the full-time commitment.”
Daniel feels that a short-term let might not attract an individual with the drive, energy and enthusiasm required to help him meet the farm’s objectives. He says: “Share farming is the best way I can think of to offer an ambitious young farmer with limited finances the opportunity they need to get on the farming ladder while at the same time creating a viable future for our farm.”
To download a copy of the CLA’s new report on share farming - An option for enterprising farmers – which contains several useful farmer case studies, please click here.
The CLA actively seeks to promote share farming as a farm business structure capable of responding to many of the challenges faced by UK agriculture.