Q&A: How the Scottish and Welsh Land Matching Services work

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For those who want to farm, rising prices often present insurmountable barriers to accessing land. On the other hand, older farmers who don’t have a succession plan but want to step back from their business may feel like their only options are to simply carry on or sell.

In Scotland and Wales, pathways encouraging collaboration have been created to provide solutions to both challenges, and these are gaining momentum.

Eighteen new joint ventures have been entered into in Scotland over the past two years through the work of the Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS).

See also: How shared milking can pave the way for dairy farming

This initiative was put in place in 2019 in response to industry concerns about the lack of opportunities for new entrants into the agricultural sector due to difficulties in accessing land and capital.

However, Wales was the first to get started with the launch of the Farming Connect Venture program in 2015. Its number of joint ventures currently stands at 55, facilitating successful collaborations between forward thinking farmers and early stage people. career or wish to expand.

In England, attempts by the Fresh Start Land Enterprise Center to secure financial support to relaunch its service for matching landowners and new entrants have so far failed. A two-year pilot was launched from 2016.

Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS)

Ian Davidson, Independent Advisor to SLMS, answers our questions.

How do people get in touch?

People usually contact us through our website (slms.scot), but sometimes they hear about us through word of mouth and contact us directly.

We maintain a database of inquiries – there are currently 460 names in the system. The vast majority are people looking for opportunities.

I think one of the reasons we have so few people offering opportunities is that succession can be a difficult thing to discuss, but we encourage anyone thinking of the future to contact us and discuss the options. .

What happens next?

We first have a phone chat and then, when there is a potential opportunity or a match that might be suitable, we start to move that process forward by meeting people face to face to get a better idea of ​​the person in terms goals and what they are looking for.

We know that not all introductions will work – if there’s no spark between two parties, there’s no point in continuing the process.

Who uses the service?

For those looking for opportunities, there is a wide range of people from all walks of life – the aspiring farmer looking for a new life in the country, farmers looking to grow and young people starting their careers.

We are very realistic about the prospects of finding an opportunity. It’s important for people to understand that when entering into a joint venture, some business experience is key.

From the perspective of someone providing an opportunity, it could be a family partnership that wants to get things done, or older farmers who don’t have successors or whose kids don’t want to farm. , but they don’t want to sell the farm either.

What is the most common agreement?

The majority are joint venture or contract farming agreements. There is no common pattern. Each arrangement is unique based on each party’s wishes and goals – agreements should be fair to both.

It is important that the agreement stipulates that the person offering the opportunity remains the farmer with regard to agricultural support schemes and tax considerations such as inheritance tax.

This is usually a five-year agreement with an option to review. During this period, there should be at least one annual meeting between all parties to allow any issues to be raised. Communication is absolutely essential – without it it doesn’t work.

What was its success?

In two years, we have facilitated 18 arrangements and beyond that have provided guidance to many people who are early in their thinking about the future.

Arrangements range from a market garden to a 3,000 acre hill farm – there are no limits in terms of size.

Once the agreements are in place, we organize follow-up discussions and, until now, no one has come back to tell us that it was not working.

If problems arise, we are at your disposal to try to solve them

Some of the parties knew each other before and that certainly helps.

When you have complete strangers, it takes time to build that trust and knowledge of each other. We have achieved this, but it takes time. Getting the right deals doesn’t happen overnight.

Venture, Farming Connect

Gwydion Owen and Delyth Jones describe the work of Venture, part of the Welsh Government’s Farming Connect service.

How do people get in touch?

Via the Venture page on the Farming Connect website or by calling the local Venture agents direct – in North Wales Gwydion Owen on 07498 055 416 and in South Wales Delyth Jones on 07985 155 670

We have a mailing list of people who want to be notified when new opportunities are listed. Suppliers can discuss their options for advertising their opportunity with Venture agents.

If they already have a business partner in mind and don’t need to use the matchmaking service, they can skip this step for immediate access to business and legal advice.

For joint ventures, advice is 100% funded up to a maximum of £1,500 per party.

What happens next?

Once a compatible match is found, personalized support is provided to both parties through a range of Farming Connect services, including the Advisory Service, which provides fully funded specialist advice to establish the new business structure. and new agreements.

Who uses the service?

The suppliers are farmers and landowners, some of whom may be considering leaving the industry because they don’t have a succession plan.

The applicants are made up of young entrants, agricultural workers, breeders or already in agriculture who wish to grow and develop their activity.

What is the most common agreement?

No two chords are the same. There is funding for legal advice, so a lawyer will discuss with both parties the agreement that suits their individual needs.

Quite often an agreement may include elements of different joint venture models.

What was its success?

We facilitated 55 agreements. There have been 813 Expressions of Interest covering nearly 21,400 ha since Venture’s inception in 2015, and there are 320 active participants.

By helping to connect people who want to consider joint ventures, such as contract or shared farming, and by providing support and advice on how best to organize them, Venture now offers an indispensable solution for many people who want to downsize or leave the industry. and those who seek a new livelihood within it.

Case study: Llaeth Bod-Ffynnon Cyf, Wales

Two farming families have come together through Venture to run a 450-cow dairy business in the Conwy Valley.

Emyr Owen and Gwydion Jones, whose families operate neighboring farms near Pandy Tudur, have joined forces in a joint venture business partnership, which includes Emyr’s older brother, Dylan, and Gwydion’s wife, Elen.

Dylan and Emyr Owen and Gwydion Jones © Farming Connect

Mr. Owen already had a contract to run a local heifer raising unit, which is ongoing. He realized that he could not farm both places without the continued support of his parents, who had hoped to step back from the cattle and sheep business in Bodrach.

Gwydion is also involved in other joint ventures outside of Ty’n Ffynnon and thought growing his family’s dairy business from 150 cows made good business sense.

“While both farms are run very efficiently, both families recognized that we had taken them as far as we could and agreed that planning ahead was essential for the long-term sustainability of both” , says Mr. Owen.

Business support

In late 2018, they reached out to their local Venture agent, Gwydion Owen, who helped support the families through the joint venture process to create a single dairy herd.

They received venture-funded business and legal support to set up a new limited liability company, Llaeth Bod-Ffynnon Cyf.

Armed with a business plan provided to Farming Connect by consultant Geraint Jones of Kite Consulting, the two families officially joined forces.

They were able to approach the bank and receive the loan they needed to create their new dairy infrastructure and increase inventory. This was quickly followed by a legal agreement drafted by Agri Advisor.

Mr. Owen’s family sold all of their cattle and sheep to fund the purchase of dairy heifers and focus entirely on the new dairy business.

For Mr Jones and his family, it was an opportunity to increase the size of their original New Zealand herd calving in the spring from 150 to 300 purchased dairy heifers. These now belong equally to both families.

A new rotary parlor and tracks were built in Bodrach. The new infrastructure has the capacity to milk 450 cows twice a day, with the production being sold to Arla.

Mr. Jones was able to recruit additional staff, which saved him time and improved his work-life balance. He says the support from the Venture program has been invaluable.

“The combination of a solid business plan and legal agreement, with Emyr and me a clear vision of what we want to achieve, mutual respect and determination to safeguard the future of our family farms , gave us an excellent basis to move forward,” he says.

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