Agriculture in the United Kingdom uses around 70% of the country's land area and contributes about 0.7% of its gross value added. The UK produces less than 60% of the food it eats. Despite skilled farmers, high technology, fertile soil and subsidies, which primarily come from the European Union (EU), farm earnings are relatively low, mainly due to low prices at the farm gate. With each generation, fewer young people can afford the rising capital cost of entry into farming and more are discouraged by low earnings. The average age of the British farm holder is now 59.
Recently there have been moves towards organic farming in an attempt to sustain profits, and many farmers supplement their income by diversifying activities away from pure agriculture. Biofuels present new opportunities for farmers against a background of rising fears about fossil fuel prices, energy security, energy sustainability, and climate change. There is increasing awareness that farmers have an important role to play as custodians of the British countryside and wildlife.
The high cost of entry into farming presents a significant barrier. Land prices in the United Kingdom are high. Local authorities recognise this and some offer smallholdings intended to allow those with skill or training but little capital to set up as tenant farmers. Nevertheless, this provision is shrinking and there is an increasing shortage of farmland to let.
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