The NFU is calling for Defra to introduce an “ambitious” scheme to support new entrants to the farming sector and help them deal with the significantcommercial, structural and practical hurdles they will face.

In a meeting with farming minister Victoria Prentis on 15 March, members of the NFU’s Next Generation Forum highlighted the wealth of talent wanting to join the industry and their importance to the future of farming.

Chair David Ractliffe said: “The meeting with the farming minister was a positive first step in the creation of a successful New Entrant Support Scheme that we would like to be ambitious and have a legacy.

“I stressed to the minister the number of aspiring farming entrepreneurs already in the wings of existing farming businesses, in our schools, colleges and universities who want to flourish and bring new ideas to the industry.​It is also vital that the new scheme focuses on equipping individuals through business skills training, in addition to farm training.

“While there are many challenges facing those looking to enter the sector or remain in it – from access to capital, finance from banks, and land to farm on – there are many opportunities to grow skills and gain mentoring from a professional network of current farmers and growers.”

He added: “It is vital that there are routes into farming for anyone who is keen to pursue a career in producing the nation’s food, whether they are from a farming background or not.

“I would encourage people from all backgrounds to enter this exciting sector, one which helps keep the nation fed with climate-friendly food, rears livestock to world leading standards, and ensures our iconic countryside is cared for.”

The forum is calling for the New Entrant Support Scheme to:

- Help new entrants with access to competitive finance, to include government backed​underpinned loans for individuals that may not have security but do have a viable business plan.

- Improve access to land for new entrants including: reviewing legislative barriers in tenancy agreements, supporting joint ventures and providing template agreements for two parties in a beneficial agreement to farm a certain area of land while remaining as separate businesses.

- Develop a network of experienced farming mentors to support individuals with quality experience-based guidance and reward mentors for their service.

- Broaden the horizons of entrepreneurs by providing agriculture travel bursaries to enable farmers to bring back fresh ideas of how to innovate and grow their business.

- Support partnerships between industry and Government to grow new entrant entrepreneurs’ networks.