GETTING started in farming has never been easy, and most inherit their farms or farm tenancies, while a few are fortunate enough to marry into farming businesses. In addition to banks being reluctant to lend the large sums of money required to stock a rented farm, there simply aren't enough tenancies available.

Scottish land reforms are being blamed for a reduction in tenancies being offered. Last year's Land Reform Act introduced legislative changes such as two new types of tenancies - the modern limited duration tenancy (MLDT) which has a 10-year minimum term, and a 35-year repairing tenancy. In addition tenants were granted a pre-emptive right to buy and changes to the rent review process.

While the changes may have caused temporary uncertainty among landlords, deterring some from entering into agreements, the reality is that the supply of farms to rent had already dried up many years earlier.

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I was fortunate to beat off fierce competition from a raft of other prospective tenants and obtain a tenancy on the open market as a young man, and then to be able to borrow enough to finance the venture. In addition to an overdraft facility I was also supported by auction companies who let me buy livestock on credit so long as I sold them back through their market. That way they earned commission as well as interest. Many young men like me owe a debt of gratitude to those auction markets - but even that source of credit has all but dried up.

At the time I was borrowing large sums of money I had to pay hefty interest charges. For instance, when the UK pulled out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) base rates soared to 17 per cent, but as I was an unsecured borrower I had to pay 20 per cent. While that was only a brief spike, I probably paid on average 14 per cent for my money. It was hard work keeping the business afloat and paying back my debts.

Many stakeholder organisations have put a lot of thought into how to encourage landowners to offer more land to rent for new entrants. According to a recent discussion paper by the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) offering relief from income tax to people who let land could be a "game-changer" in terms of attracting new land into the let sector and encouraging longer lettings.

The Republic of Ireland has offered rent relief from income tax, which rises according to the length of let. That has led to a 30 per cent increase in the number of landlords offering tenancies for five years or more. That seems a good idea worthy of more consideration.

Another method of getting new entrants onto the first rung of the farming ladder is share farming, that is popular in New Zealand and Australia where 17 per cent of farms are operated as "share farms". In the right circumstances share farming could be a good solution for many farmers looking to reduce their workload but with no one to help them do so.

Generally speaking the farm owner provides the land, buildings and fixed assets and the farm operator provides machinery and labour with both providing livestock as applicable. What makes share farming distinct from, say, a partnership is that both individuals trade as separate businesses. That enables the owner to retain any tax advantages and the operator to build up capital.

Share farming arrangements ensure that the landowning farmer will still be considered to be running a farming business in the eyes of HMRC and can continue to benefit from the Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax advantages of being treated as a farmer. However, HMRC has commented that to fully meet the rule on genuine share farming agreements, the landowning farmer must have some involvement in the day-to-day management of the business.

The 2014 Oxford Farming Conference predicted that the following decade would see an increase in share farming as the shape of the industry changed, with a "divergence between those owning land and those farming (operating) it".

While there has been a lot of talk about share farming, the idea has not taken off in Scotland, probably because it ignores the reality of their uncertain and unstable basis. Such agreements are driven more by the taxation considerations of the landowners involved than a desire to create viable business structures for both parties.

At the end of the day the best option is to create an environment that encourages landowners to provide more long-term tenancy agreements.