Agents Eye – January 2014

13th January 2014

Is it all about finding a farm to rent for young entrants? Employment shouldn’t be overlooked for the forward thinking.

Part of my work often involves employment issues; sometimes it’s the unpleasant part, dealing with either redundancies or dismissals but more than often finding and employing people to work for us and our clients. But what amazes me is how difficult it is to find good people.

We keep hearing the TFA and NFU saying that there are no opportunities for young people to get on the farming ladder and I agree; there isn’t. If there were and it was easy, more people like me would be out farming rather than being behind a desk (although looking at the weather I’m not always sure!). With such high rents being paid, mostly in advance, and high costs per tonne/kg to grow anything, the working capital required is so significant that unless there is a wealthy guarantor behind you, the chance of getting funding from the banks is nil. Banks no longer can recognise stock and crops as collateral for lending, so unless you own some property, raising debt to take on a rented farm is extremely difficult. On top of that, you are often out gunned by the bigger larger more economic farms, which can afford the higher rents. I’ve often been told by the intuitional landlords that they will always choose young applicants over others, but from first-hand experience, it’s all talk; unsurprisingly money talks!

But why is the emphasis on always having to farm in your own name? Yes, it’s great to own your own business and make your own decisions, but starting out from a fresh is only really available to a few, often on small county council farms, which are few and far between. The New Zealand style of share farming has really never taken off in the UK and there aren’t many landlords who are willing to share in the profits and allow new entrants to get involved.

What we have also found is that there is a need for highly skilled and forward thinking men/women to work on farms. Finding good, skilled labour is difficult, particularly on stock farms; there is a real lack of people willing to work with stock, yet many intensive large farms are crying out for good hard working people. Why is that, is it wages? I don’t think so, I think if you’re good, skilled and competent, you’re highly valuable and will be recognised for that; if you’re not being, find someone who will recognise you for what you’re worth! To be honest, the wages for a highly skilled operator, would be far more than one could earn from a county council tenanted unit.

Farming businesses must also value their employees. I think it’s important to undertake periodic reviews with your employees, understand what they enjoy, what they don’t, what they want to achieve and what you want them to achieve and ultimately how you both can work better together to achieve a more successful and profitable business.

We wish you all the best for a successful 2014.

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