Industry Focuses on Exodus Problem; Farming Continues to Shrink and Faces Further Contraction as the European Union Expands

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Byline: Steve Dube

THE quickening drift of young people away from farming is a major theme of the 15th annual Semex Dairy Conference in Glasgow next week.

The farm unions and farmer organisations have warned for years of the difficulties in attracting young people to an industry where costs and constraints are continuously rising and profits are uncertain.

The industry continues to shrink and faces further contraction as the European Union expands to 25 and perhaps 30 member states.

Head of Semex UK Drew Sloan said farming has undergone some of its darkest days in recent years.

'Overshadowing the recovery from the foot-and-mouth and BSE crises is widespread uncertainty as a result of CAP reform, EU enlargement and WTO talks,' he said.

'It is vital that this does not become a beleaguered industry, facing on-going downsizing and exodus, and we must question whether we will have enough farmers in the future to sustain and grow the industry.

'In a bid to halt this decline, we have forged a strong relationship with Holstein UK Young Breeders and through a three-year sponsorship arrangement we aim to encourage and develop those young breeders whose skills and commitment we need to bring the industry forward.'

The pounds 40,000 sponsorship deal includes financial backing for a programme of young breeders' activities to encourage and inspire the milk industry workforce of the future.

It will be launched at this year's conference, which takes place from January 11 to 13. The event will also host the prestigious Holstein UK President's Medal Award ceremony for the Dairy Industry Young Achiever of the Year for the first time.

Mr Sloan said these initiatives from one of the leading cattle breeding companies would send out a much-needed message that the corporate sector is backing today's young farmers to safeguard the future of farming.

And Mr Sloan urged other agri-businesses to strengthen their links with the farming youth.

'We are delighted to feature the President's Medal award ceremony at our annual conference as it will serve to reassure our delegates that, with all our support, the future of farming is in safe hands. …