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New land matching service to help new entrants into farming

Bob McIntosh

In this blog, Tenant Farming Commissioner Bob McIntosh looks at the newly-introduced Land Matching Service.

There are matchmakers for love and for business so why not for land and farming?

But how best to bring together those with land who no longer want to farm with those who want to farm but have no land?

For a long time, the problem has seemed intractable, though the need is clearly there.

New secure tenancies are few and far between because they are seen as low return and high risk by landowners. Meanwhile, fixed duration tenancies have encouraged landowners to let land, but generally on a relatively short-term basis, without the security of tenure which many tenants seek.

There is increased interest in exploring how other joint ventures such as contract farming, share farming and business partnerships can provide opportunities in all sectors of the industry. These joint venture opportunities also apply to people who are thinking about retirement and succession planning.

What seems clear is that we need to provide opportunities to bring landowners, farmers and new entrants together, with a central point of contact for initial guidance and impartial advice.

The Scottish Land Commission has been working alongside National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs as part of the Scottish Government’s Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) group to create a new, dedicated land-matching service.

NFUS will host the service, as an expansion of their current Joint Venture Hub. The FONE group will provide guidance and the service will be supported by funding from the Scottish Land Commission.

The service will provide farmers and new entrants with a one stop shop for advice and guidance and to help initiate discussions between potential new entrants, land owners and farmers. The aim is to bring potential ‘matches’ together, working with them to select an agreement which best suits their needs. It will also appeal to landowners looking to set up a joint business venture with a new entrant.

This is a potentially very helpful initiative which the Land Commission is pleased to have supported and which will enable those seeking a tenancy to be linked up with those thinking of offering a tenancy. It will be important that the service is proactive, as well as reactive, by actively working with landlords and those wishing to farm to encourage and assist them in developing ways of working together to create opportunities that will benefit both parties and by publicising good examples as they occur.

Conventional tenancies is one route to bringing the parties together but a variety of other models such as joint ventures and business partnerships provide other opportunities which are worth exploring. While the focus may often be on identifying new opportunities for new entrants, there is potential to benefit existing secure tenants wishing to retire and who have no eligible successors. Agreements which enable them to bring another person into the business can be a good way of allowing the existing tenant to exit the business gradually and pass it on to the next generation.

The Commission is delighted to be involved in this new service helping to unlock land, increase productivity of farming, introduce new people to the industry and promote innovation, proving a win-win for farmers looking to retire or scale down and those looking to set up in farming.

Keep an eye on the Scottish Land Commission’s website to find out more.