Bruton Knowles rural affairs specialist Ben Compton said it was important to identify alternative routes into the sector other than through a traditional family inheritance.
He said: “The key question for the industry is how we turn bright, well-qualified and enthusiastic agricultural students into hands-on farmers.
“At the moment their only chance to get their hands on land is by inheritance or winning the Lottery.”
Mr Compton commented following a keynote speech delivered by George Eustice, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defra at the Three Counties Farming Conference, held in Malvern.
Bruton Knowles sponsored the event.
Mr Compton went on: “George Eustice rightly stressed that entry into the industry should not simply be through inheritance.
“While it’s clear there is no shortage of younger people interested in breaking into the industry, rising costs – partly fuelled by rocketing land prices – are making it ever more difficult for students to turn theory into practice.
“We are concerned this is creating a real bar to entry. One of the few ways into the industry at present is by working on a farm as a labourer, to build up sufficient funds and working capital to take on a tenanted farm at a suitable tendering opportunity.
“Alternatively, some people are able to start their farming businesses through carefully-defined contracting arrangements or on a share farming basis with another equal partner, who will help to fund the venture, and may often be the landowner.
“All of these opportunities are still relatively rare as there are no incentives for farmers to retire and encourage the next generation to enter the industry.”
As part of any such new arrangement in the future, Mr Compton strongly recommends that new entrants take good professional advice, as a badly drawn contracting or share farming agreement will result in heavy losses for the new farmer when prices start to fluctuate.
He said: “A good proportion of the Malvern Farming Conference audience was drawn from the major agricultural colleges.
“It was no surprise that the majority of the questions George Eustice faced concerned the lack of any national strategic plan for UK agriculture, in the same way that other countries, such as Ireland, have been able to progress their farming industry.
“For example, many in the audience were asking why the Government hasn’t emulated Ireland’s 2020 plan for the development of the agricultural sector.”
Bruton Knowles works closely with the Royal Agricultural University and Hartpury College and recruits a good proportion of its own surveyors from them – including Mr Compton himself.
He concluded: “Everybody agrees the agricultural industry needs a constant supply of new blood and new thinking, especially as a quarter of all farmers are approaching retirement age.
“We look forward to hearing what the government proposes to do to encourage new entrants and as part of this plan, I feel they must address the real lack of incentives currently offered to older farmers.”