NFUS launches share farming project to address succession worries and new entrant barriers

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NFU Scotland has started a research project on the potential of share farming to assist both new entrants and farm owners worried about succession on their farm.

Earlier this week, the union’s New Generation Committee gave their support to this project which aims to inform members of the options available and connect potential new entrants to farming with farm and croft owners who are looking to relinquish some of the duties of every day farming and land ownership without having to sell on.

The project comes off the back of a recent New Generation survey which found that the price of land and land availability is preventing new entrants from entering and progressing in the industry. This coincides with a wide concern among many farmers and crofters approaching retirement age about a lack of willing heirs to take over the operational side of the business, forcing a decision on the sale of the farm.

There are a huge amount of agricultural college graduates and young farmers coming through every year who are looking for a chance to build up their working capital and experience, and share farming is a unique opportunity for them to do so in tandem with a knowledgeable and experienced Scottish farmer.

Speaking after the New Generation Committee meeting in Perth earlier this week, NFU Scotland’s Food Policy and Campaigns Officer, Lindsey Macdonald said: “We recently launched this project after it became clear that there were mutually beneficial issues among farmers and crofters at both ends of their career that had yet to be explored.

“On the one side, we have a generation of new and enthusiastic young farmers and crofters desperate to enter the industry and build their business; on the other side, we have a huge number of farm and croft owners reaching retirement age and looking to step back but with no willing family members to take over and a fear that the only choice they have is to sell the farm they’ve spent their whole lives building up.

“We realised there’s a unique opportunity to tap into this and match new entrants with farm owners via share farming. Share farming is an arrangement in which the new entrant and the farm owner carry out separate farming businesses on the same land with one party providing the land and often the machinery and the other providing the labour and expertise, while both share the profits.

“Each arrangement will be different according to the parties involved but this is an exciting opportunity for new entrants and farm owners alike to mutually benefit one another.

“We will be working closely with NFU Scotland members and the New Generation Committee in the coming months to provide information and advice on possible agreements and considering avenues to help facilitate share farming matches.”