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Summary of the report

Preparing Entrants to Farming: Scoping Programs and Strategies

by Ian Reeve and Richard Stayner

November 2006

RIRDC Publication No 06/041 RIRDC Project No UNE-81A

Executive Summary

The future efficiency, sustainability and innovativeness of the farm sector depend on the continuing entry of appropriately skilled and motivated people to develop and operate farm businesses. While education of the next generation of farmers is available from a wide variety of institutions, there are several aspects of the entry process that can create barriers to the smooth transition of suitable skilled and motivated people to full involvement in the management of farm businesses. For example, the intra-family path to a farming occupation is not always an efficient and harmonious process.

What this report is about
This report reviews educational processes and other support mechanisms designed to manage the transition to a farming career. The report recognises that the transition to farming usually occurs over an extended period, and that there are several entry or transition paths, each with its own obstacles and potential pitfalls. Entry to farming usually occurs over an extended period of time, and requires consideration of a wide range of matters not necessarily covered in formal education programs.

Target audience
The report is targeted at policy makers, research organisations, universities and professionals involved in succession planning.

The objectives of this project were: to undertake a scoping study of the issues, programs and initiatives that have been developed to facilitate and improve entry to farming in Australia and elsewhere, and to prepare a discussion paper that reviews the issues, identifies alternative entry paths and types of entrants, identifies the scope of, and gaps in, programs for facilitating entry, and proposes methods for developing and delivering programs targeted at entrants to the industry.


A literature search and review was undertaken of existing Australian and overseas programs of assistance (educational, training, and financial), as well as a survey of packages, courses, and materials designed to prepare prospective entrants to farming.

Two email surveys of Australian educational institutions that have some role in preparing entrants were undertaken, to collect information on the content of units relevant to the project.

The categories of potential entrants who constitute the target groups for educational programs, and their alternative entry paths, were identified.

This Discussion Paper was prepared for comment.

The literature and web review identified and summarised a wide range of programs and materials that have been developed in several countries to assist the entry and transition of new farmers. Of particular interest are ‘land-linking’ programs in the US that aim to create relationships between intending farmers and unrelated established farmers seeking to reduce their involvement in farming.

The particular challenges of intra-family transition have also been recognised by some programs in US colleges. The highly regulated environment of European farming offers opportunities for policy intervention in the entry process that might not be easily emulated in Australia.

Two surveys of tertiary educational institutions and TAFE level providers revealed that there is an awareness of the importance of the issues that influence the success of the entry process, but as yet this awareness is only slightly reflected in course offerings and coverage. This suggests that educational institutions and other providers may be receptive to assistance with the development of innovative course materials and the trial of new delivery mechanisms.

The report concludes with a number of questions designed to serve as discussion points for comment by educational institutions and other course providers, and others who have some role in assisting entrants manage the process of transition to a farming career.

The report recommends more work to inform development of both future policy and of educational programs.
1. Future policy development in succession planning would be better informed by:

quantifying the range of entry paths to farming within Australia

quantifying the aggregate costs of farm transfers between individuals, looking at whether or not they are related, and paying particular attention to dysfunctional inter-generational farm transfers

developing human resource profiles for individual agricultural industries

examining whether or not people taking up management of a farm require management qualifications

defining potential forms of education or training that could improve the traditional entry path for young people moving from formal education to farming in partnership with their parents

2. Education programs could be designed to smooth farm succession planning by:

scoping the potential for providing more assistance to junior and senior generations in family farm partnerships to communicate, articulate their goals and aspirations, and develop informal and formal arrangements for managing the gradual transfer of management responsibility and ownership of assets from one generation to the next. Questions to be considered include: o what educational materials and delivery mechanisms might be developed to address particular issues of an entrant’s transition to an existing family farm;

what might be the content of such a program (cf. the Iowa State University program);

what might be an appropriate delivery process (e.g. over what period, how might it be taught or facilitated, by what organizations);

should farm families be assisted in drawing up employment agreements for a returning member of the junior generation

developing a better understanding of the needs of those who enter agriculture later in life after a career in a non-farming occupation

exploring the potential for programs similar to the land linking programs in the USA to be developed in Australia, focussing on:

the key aspects of effective contractual arrangements between entering and retiring farmers;

what bodies of Australian contract law that could be drawn upon to establish such arrangements; and

what regulatory or institutional support might assist in the development of landlinking programs in Australia.

last updated: November 2006
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