WES Ambassador Lynn Mann speaks at Parliamentary launch of farming report

The Royal Bank of Scotland – a key partner of Women’s Enterprise Scotland – has released a new report revealing that millennial farmers are facing serious, unnecessary challenges impacting the entire industry. The number of young people entering the sector continues to fall and those already in the sector can’t grow and diversify their farms. The report calls for a more joined-up, cross government, farming sector and finance framework to ensure this economic potential doesn’t remain untapped.

Working with an independent economic analyst, the report - Harvesting the future for young farmers - is based on a landmark study of over 500 young and potential new entrant farmers in Britain, combined with insight and analysis of the future farming economic scenarios in the UK. The study revealed key challenges to entering and succeeding in the industry:

  • ‘Dead man’s shoes’ syndrome - limited succession opportunities, often combined with the complexity of family dynamics and intergenerational issues pose a significant challenge for young people seeking a career in farming.

  • Inability to embrace new farming models - despite 20% of young farmers surveyed stating that they are looking for new ways to access farming such as share farming, with ever larger farms across the UK, this is proving difficult.

  • Access to funding and varying levels of business skills – highlighted as obstacles to investment and growth opportunities, with 36% of survey respondents saying they did not have access to sufficient advice and resources to develop their businesses.

However, the research findings also show that these millennial farmers hold a huge economic potential and are driving significant enterprise trends in the agricultural sector. According to the report, almost 20,000 new diversification projects could be delivered by young farmers, generating £11,900 in additional income per farm.

WES Ambassador Lynn Mann, owner of Midlothian based Supernature Oils, was invited to speak at the launch of the report, sharing her own experience of diversifying the family’s farming business to become Scotland’s first producers of rapeseed oil.

She commented: “This report shows that many young farmers have great new business ideas, but it’s crucial to get the right support to get your project off the ground. I had to learn a huge amount about growing a business and being an entrepreneur and while I was able to get support from my bank, not all young farmers have access to the business mentoring, advice and connections needed to turn their plans into reality.”

With increased market volatility and uncertainty post Brexit, the report calls for a more joined-up, cross-Government farming sector and finance framework to ensure this economic potential doesn’t remain untapped. In particular, the Royal Bank of Scotland calls for a new Cabinet Committee, one that is supported by a Better Brexit Farming Strategy Taskforce.

Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “Millennial farmers are a high tech, high skilled, highly motivated group who hold a realistic picture of farming in their heads and want a career on the land. They are however, seriously constrained in a number of ways. With Brexit further heightening these challenges and increasing uncertainty, it is important we act now. Unless additional investment is secured, it is unlikely that the economic potential these young people hold will be unlocked. Banks, government, families, and communities need to come together to ensure today’s young farmers receive the support they deserve.”

The report identified a number of key drivers that reinforce entrepreneurial dynamics and can help farmers to improve productivity and profitability:

  • Innovation and technology - highly skilled tech savvy new entrants are finding innovative ways of working - from the adoption of drones for monitoring crops to the electronic identification of livestock (EID).

  • New forms of funding - Entrepreneurial young farmers are tapping in to new opportunities such as crowdfunding.

  • Diversification - from leisure & tourism, renewables, to glamping and bee keeping, diversification is generating additional income. The research found that a considerable proportion of young farmers has already diversified their businesses and 52% have plans to expand their operations in new ways, with the majority envisaging launching these in the next two years.

The Royal Bank of Scotland is one of the biggest supporters of farming in the UK, serving 28% of farming businesses. With agriculture specialists based in communities across Scotland it has one of the largest networks of specialists of any UK bank. This means NatWest is able to provide the wrap-around care, networks, expertise, connections and specialist knowledge to help farmers across the UK. The bank also supports more than 60 major agriculture events a year such as the Royal Highland Show.

Women’s Enterprise Scotland works to create an entrepreneurial environment where women-led businesses can flourish.

More women-owned businesses in Scotland means more money for the economy. If the numbers of women-led businesses increased to equal those of men, our national bank balance would be at least 5% better off. That’s equivalent to a £7.6 billion boost to the economy, minimum.

To make the most of this opportunity for economic growth, and to improve the gender gap in Scottish entrepreneurial activity, Women’s Enterprise Scotland aims to create a commercial culture where women-led business ownership is not simply an aspiration, but becomes a truly attainable, attractive and achievable option for women everywhere.

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