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Monday, 12 November 2012

Time is good to get into farming, conference delegates told

There's never been a better time to get into farming, according to agricultural experts.

The 220 delegates at the Northern Farming Conference in Harrogate were told that the biggest obstacle to young people going into farming is the price of land but that the current economic climate presented opportunities.

But experts said that despite a drought, the wettest summer on record and a poor harvest, the future for agriculture is bright but challenging.

Farmer and columnist Guy Smith said: “The biggest hurdle for young people coming into the industry is the price of land. It is getting out of hand. Paying £10,000 an acre just builds into that inertia.”

However, Country Land and Business Association president Harry Cotterell said: “Despite all the difficulties, this is a very positive time to be going into agriculture. We have very good agricultural colleges filling a really vibrant industry. We need to start thinking about what the industry is going to look like in 50 years time and build an industry that’s fit for purpose for the future but it is a very exciting time to start.”

Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, said: “Our industry needs young farmers. We need them to take it to the next level but we also need a government that will champion our industry through thick and thin and as a farmer in politics I will be pushing that all the way.

"We also have to support all sectors, not just large businesses. Getting into farming is one of the hardest things to do and realistically the only way young people are going to start up is on a small scale and so we need to support small farms as well as the big players.”

Yorkshire beef farmer Mike Powley said there were numerous reasons to be cheerful, particularly in relation to the export market: The ability to sell British offal abroad, adding about £120 to £130 of value to each carcass; the emergence of a prosperous Russian market with a taste in good quality beef; and a growth in interest in cooking at home in the UK are all helping."

He added: “There is a huge rise in interest in home cooking and cooking from scratch and consumers are looking for primary products. That is very positive for us.”

It was not all good news though. Anne McIntosh MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said: “We face twin challenges of climate change and food security. We must have a sustainable countryside for the future, a one nation sustainable countryside.”

She said that “reluctantly” she had to support a pilot badger cull. “All of our cattle producers are terrified of having just one rogue animal in their herd. We have to do something.”

On Ash Dieback Disease, she said she was “appalled” by the fragmented response of forestry research and plant health organisations. She added: “We need to forget our differences, pull together, pool our resources and move forward very quickly. Why on earth are we exporting seeds to other European countries to then import saplings which are often diseased?”

The Northern Farming Conference is a joint venture between the Country Land and Business Association, Strutt & Parker, Dickinson Dees, Armstrong Watson, Catchment Sensitive Farming and Gibson & Co Solicitors.

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