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You shouldn’t have to inherit to get into farming

The agricultural industry needs new blood, and while the industry dates back many centuries, it can be vibrant in the modern era, with many exciting career opportunities.

three counties conference

Three Counties Farming Conference 2014 L to R Allan Wilkinson, Paul Westaway, Henry Robinson, George Eustace, Minette Batters

The agricultural industry needs new blood, and while the industry dates back many centuries, it can be vibrant in the modern era, with many exciting career opportunities. Entry into the industry should not simply be through inheritance.

These were the main themes of George Eustice MP, Parliamentary under-Secretary of State, DEFRA, speaking at the annual Three Counties Farming Conference on Thursday at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire.

He told a packed audience that new entrants into the industry must be helped to fulfil their dreams. “When they come into farming people must be helped to achieve their aims,  not just through something that is inherited. The biggest barrier is cost, with land prices having tripled in the last 10 years, probably due to low interest rates and land being seen as a safe haven for money. We have to identify alternative routes into the industry.”

The theme of the Conference, hosted by the Three Counties Agricultural Society, was ‘Future. Farming. Finances’ – a stellar panel joining George Eustice included NFU deputy president, Minette Batters; CLA president Henry Robinson and HSBC’s head of agriculture, Allan Wilkinson. The chairman was Gloucestershire beef farmer, Paul Westaway.

The audience included a high proportion of young farmers, and agricultural students from the Royal Agricultural University and Hartpury College. There were global themes – for example, the scale of the worldwide economic and population challenges for food production, and the estimate that the worldwide middle class will grow from two billion to five billion by 2030.

There was also advice as to how individuals can get their foot on the ladder in the UK industry. Henry Robinson reminded the audience that a quarter of farmers are over 65 years old, so the industry needs new young and dynamic entrants.

Minette Batters, sharing her own experiences of starting out, urged young people to get involved and not be deterred by failures – which she sees as a stepping stone to success. Allan Wilkinson’s message to young farmers was to remember to balance ‘work on the farm and profit in the office’.

As part of a lively debate from the conference floor, George Eustace was challenged to work towards a strategic plan for UK agriculture to emulate that of Ireland’s 2020 plan.  The Minister’s agreement to meet and follow up with delegates was welcomed by Minette Batters who later tweeted:  “Great Malvern farming conference.  Ag Minister George Eustice agreed that we need a long term strategic Ag/food plan.”

Conference organiser, John Wilesmith, said:  “The Three Counties Farming Conference continues to go from strength to strength and each year we are attracting more delegates.

“We are delighted to welcome more sponsors with a key mission to be part of the rural community among them Lightsource Renewable Energy, DEFRA and the Royal Agricultural University. The Three Counties Agricultural Society is committed to promoting and supporting regional agricultural activity which culminates in the region’s largest agricultural show each June, the Royal Three Counties Show.

“It is a measure of the prestige of that show that George Eustice started his address by recalling how he used to show South Devon cattle with us.’


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