5.1 The availabilities of land and farming units for New Entrants to the industry is a subject that has a long history of debate and discussion. The Group identified a general consensus that New Entrants are highly desirable. In general, New Entrants have many of the core skills through training they have undertaken and are also predisposed to accepting new ideas.
5.2 The Group identified very few examples of New Entrant activity through leasing agreements, share or contract farming. Forest Enterprise Scotland's repositioning program and Starter Farm Programme has given a very welcome boost to getting a few New Entrants started. A key finding from this experience is that all New Entrants on the National Forest Estate had all previously farmed some small parcels of land, let on a seasonal basis and were intending running their starter farms on a part-time basis with other income streams. Applicants have shown a high level of determination to get a start and tend to be entrepreneurs and prepared to make things happen.
5.3 This has led to the conclusion that those seeking to enter agriculture may need an initial small first step on to the farming ladder. Rather than needing a full-time, equipped farming unit, they need the security to rationalise or formalise a medium term agreement on areas of land to allow them to develop their skills, experience and capital base in preparation for the next stage commitments of possibly changing employment, investing further capital or time in their next venture.
5.4 In order not to block progression from smaller opportunities it is important that New Entrant opportunities allow for progression beyond New Entrant status.
5.5 From all the information provided by the different organisations, there is potentially a supply of starter opportunities on publicly owned land.
5.6 It should be noted that a reasonable amount of the publicly owned land is let out to secure tenants and these areas have been excluded from this report.
5.7 The potential opportunities consist mainly of bare land with very little in the way of housing. Most of this land will be for grazing purposes and there are only a very few examples of opportunities in arable production. The group recognised that with limited capital New Entrants may find it easier to grow a business using livestock (particularly sheep) rather than invest heavily in machinery & equipment.
5.8 Some of this land is currently let on a seasonal basis, often to the same established farmers in succeeding years. There could be the opportunity in the future to give first preference to New Entrants for such areas. However, that risks alienating the current land managers and established businesses seeking to spread their fixed cost base therefore guidance for this will be required from Scottish Government.
5.9 From responses to the mini consultation and further discussions, it is very evident that access to land is the key requirement.
5.10 With this in mind, the opportunities on publicly owned land should be looked at as a ladder allowing progression from very small beginnings up to larger units and in to full scale farming businesses or agribusiness.
5.11 There is already in place a New Entrant Support Group providing networking and business advice and details of this Group and what it can provide are included in Annex 6.
5.12 In many discussions regarding bringing starter opportunities to fruition and the market, the Group identified public bodies referring to difficulties in the rules regarding property, valuations and value for money or best consideration. The Group concluded there was a need to dispel the mythical barriers surrounding the letting of such land to New Entrants.
5.13 While the sole focus of the Group's work has been on publicly owned land, we hope that it provides an impetus and example of what could also be achieved from land held by charities, communities and in private hands.