More help needed to encourage next generation of farmers

MEASURES to encourage older farmers to retire and allow the next generation to begin farming are needed if the industry is to close the ‘massive’ age gap.

Speaking to journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday, leader of the European Council of Young Farmers, Joris Baecke, said early retirement schemes had worked well in some countries but more must be done at EU level.

“Our main concern is the big age crisis we are facing,” said Mr Baecke. “There are not many under 35s left. Only 6 per cent of farmers are under 35.”

Mr Baecke said if the industry was to respond to the challenges of feeding a growing population with fewer resources, it needed ‘the actors in the play’ to ‘serve all the objectives we have in the future’.

He added: “We have to make sure there is at least a sufficient number of farmers in 2020.”

Mr Baecke said his organisation supported early retirement schemes such as the one currently being used in Germany, as it ‘speeded up the transition period’.

“In the case of a farmer wanting to apply for a public pension, he has to pass on the farm. I think this is a good idea because they won’t get their pension otherwise,” he said.

Secretary general of European farmer organisation Copa Cogeca, Pekka Personen, agreed.

He added: “We have to encourage older farmers to get off the farm. If the transition is too long it becomes a hindrance.”

Readers' comments (10)

  • Market forces will solve the issue. Shortage of food will lead to higher profitability, which will lead to more younger newcomers interested in farming.

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  • The old boys have large SFP, so how can the new blood get a start. Out bid on land and stock, and it seems a change wont happen now till 2015 with SFP.

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  • Older farmers may have the land, the equipment, the livestock and the experience, but might love to give a younger farmer (with the fitness, enthusiasm and latest training) a chance to improve returns and provide both a pension and an income for a new young family. Market forces aren't enough, because agriculture is such a capital intensive industry. We need share farming or partnership / shareholding models that will enable a retiring farmer to live on the land and protect his capital while also allowing a new farmer to build up his own capital through the profits that he/she can generate. Perhaps the NFU and others might like to develop suitable models and put young farmers in touch with older farmers. Everyone stands to benefit.

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  • I agree with the above - where older farmers don't have family to pass things on to, or family who are not interested in farming, bring them together with young farmers who do have the passion and commitment to succeed. This needs help and guidance from the authorities - to ensure everyone is protected.

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  • My son would dearly love to have his own farm but I cannot see how this is affordable. If any older farmers are looking to assist a young farmer with bucket loads of potential to secure their pension income then he'd locve to hear from you. Based in Teesside/ Durham/ North Yorks.

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  • From what I hear few young ladies want to marry a grafting farmer, they want a holiday in the south of France like other wives!

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  • How many ladies would want to wash farmer husband's socks, cook dinner, play second fiddle to farm and live as though they were on their own?

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  • The problem we are encounting is where do our sons live who want to farm. Our son owns 40 acres has his own holding and SBI number has permission to build an agric. shed but because he cannot make enough money from his land he has to take on other work. This extra money is not taken into account by the council to allow him to live on his farm. This planning issue needs addressing to encourage these dedicated, hard working sons to live on their own farm. He is a third generation farmer. we are not in a position to retire yet!!!

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  • Don't forget the 'lost generation' of 40-somethings! Many of us have had to go off-farm to earn a living during tough farming times. There are lots of us out there still patiently waiting for the opportunity to fulfill our life's ambition and farm. We now offer experience, skills and in some cases capital, yet it's still a battle getting the previous generation to include us in the farm business.

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  • There are too many starry eyed would be farmers out there now. . Even many farmers' sons have now seen the light and decided a life of indebtedness to the bank isn't worth a light. . The small farmer was sacrificed to the European 'Ideal' back in the 70's, to give the proletariat their cheap food.

    I've been subsidising my farming activities with far more profitable commercial interests ever since I obtained my first AMC mortgage at age 26. .

    Good Luck to all . . You'll need it.

    As David Turton said market forces will solve the issue. Shortage of food will lead to higher profitability, (eventually), but it will take as 'sea-change'. . As usual Europe is talking rubbish. . Eurocrats with pensions that would cost an ordinary person £millions to buy. . . They haven't got the first clue about finance most of them.

    How many £Millions do you think the Socialist "KINNOCKS" are now worth??

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