The Farmers' Union of Wales has urged all Welsh county councils to show greater commitment to the next generation of farmers by actively helping them secure tenancies of local authority-owned agricultural holdings.
The FUW keeps the future of the Welsh farming industry at the heart of its work and last year set up a "Younger Voice for Farming Committee".
Now the committee's chairman, tenant farmer Darren Williams, of Garthbrengy, Breconshire, has written to local authorities throughout Wales and the Welsh Local Government Association stressing that county council holdings (CCHs) are a valuable and essential route into farming across Wales.
"Many young farmers and new entrants have limited access to land, compounded by prohibitive land prices and rental values. CCHs, therefore, provide an important stepping stone into the industry for the next generation," Mr Williams wrote.
However, the FUW fears a number of local authorities are consolidating and disposing of these holdings or reducing the length of tenancy agreements to the extent that investment in holdings by tenants becomes unviable.
The new committee is concerned that councils are struggling to move older tenants on from the medium/larger sized holdings preventing the younger generation accessing them. This results in stagnation within the industry and a less dynamic local rural economy.
"It is understandable why tenants, who have been farmers all their lives, would not want to abandon the farming industry altogether.
"It is, therefore, suggested that councils should consider offering the older generation tenant one of the smaller CCHs as a retirement/smallholding opportunity, releasing the larger holdings for a new generation of tenants in order to facilitate their entry into the industry," Mr Williams stated.
His letter also mentioned that some local authorities are no longer employing an in-house land agent. "This can often result in an expensive service that delivers little for both the tenant and landlord.
"The union asks that neighbouring councils group together and employ a full time agent specifically to deal with CCHs and believes this would represent better delivery for local authorities, tenants and the public purse."
Members of the new committee are also concerned that councils no longer consider CCHs as a service to their county despite the 1970 Agriculture Act specifying that local authorities should "aim to provide opportunities for persons to be farmers on their own account by letting holdings to them".
"We are constantly reminded of the need to encourage the youngest and brightest talent into agriculture and, for many, CCHs remain one of the only entry routes in the industry," Mr Williams stated. "CCHs must therefore be kept as a legacy for future generations."
The committee expressed further concern that if CCHs are no longer intended as "holdings for life" then councils have a duty to assist tenants to move on to larger holdings.
"If the CCH system works as it should, then these farms should hold the prospective tenants for the private sector landlords," Mr Williams added.