Confronting the IT and succession challenges that face young farmers

It will be more and more important for farmers to be IT and technology savvy, according to the UK’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for natural environment and science Lord de Mauley.

Speaking at a recent young farmers’ conference in England he explained that the farmers of tomorrow must be willing to take risks and experiment with new technology and practices.

“New technology and innovation can be a driving force for change so that agriculture remains competitive and profitable. It is important however that innovation is not stuck in a research institute or lab, but gets moved onto the farm and used in practice. We have recognised that Government has a role in helping that to happen.”

Turning to the issue of succession planning the minister said that this is a subject which the UK government is keen to address.

“It is a vital part of managing a successful business and planning for all eventualities,” de Mauley commented.

“Planned succession will ensure we can support young people entering the sector with the right introduction, whilst capturing the valuable knowledge accrued by those moving on.

“Indeed, if we can be open minded about business succession, then we can start to think pragmatically about different models for developing businesses in the future. I know that many young people want to own their own farming businesses. Undoubtedly this should be an achievable aspiration. But it may take time.

“What we need to do is create a series of stepping stones for young people, between them starting out in farming and fulfilling the dream of eventual farm ownership. These stepping stones will allow them develop the required skills and professionalism. This will help establish a track record that will enable young farmers to obtain both finance and interesting opportunities.

Lord de Mauley pointed to the role for farm apprenticeships and trainee programmes in helping to make all of this happen. He also expressed the strong belief that experienced farmers should take on a mentoring role and share their business.

“For those who are reaching a stage where they may want to start to step back, share farming could be a real opportunity,” he said.

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