Young farmers should consider putting viable partnership proposals to older land owners as a means of getting a start in farming, delegates at Macra na Feirme's national conference were told over the weekend.
The president of the Agricultural Consultant's Association, Mike Brady, said pride and fear were the main reasons why elderly farmers were reluctant to let their land.
However, the Cork-based consultant said if young farmers were willing to put concrete proposals to landowners that were based on sound business plans, then greater access to land would be secured.
Mr Brady told the conference, which was held in Carlow, that these plans would have to deliver "security of income" for both the land owner and the farmer.
Pride and fear were the emotions that young farmers had to play on when seeking to set up a partnership arrangement, Mr Brady added.
If a farmer felt that his holding was being well farmed and looked after, then he could take pride in the lease that facilitated this arrangement, he explained.
The question of land access and the increasing age profile of Ireland's farmers dominated much of the debate at the conference.
The conference heard that while 26pc of farmers in the late 1970s were under 35, that figure had now fallen to just 6pc. Sean Coughlan of Macra said the under-utilisation of land was an issue which needed to be addressed.
This view was echoed by Macra president Kieran O'Dowd who again called for a land use audit and a national land use policy.
However, Ailish Byrne of Ulster Bank pointed out that the opinion of older land owners had to be heard in developing any national policy on land use and land access.
"Older people have not been asked to give their side of the story," Ms Byrne said. Agricultural economist, Alan Renwick, blamed the "wall of money" that CAP direct payments delivered for the increasing age profile of Irish farmers.
The UCD-based academic said that while the single farm payment had benefitted the farm sector greatly, it had also kept older farmers on the land, thereby preventing land mobility and restricting opportunities for young people who were trying to get into farming.
However, Mr Renwick added that there appeared to be a preoccupation with age in the debate.
He said the emphasis should be on the "right people" going into the business.
Ireland East MEP, Mairead McGuinness, welcomed Macra's decision to appoint a dedicated land policy officer.
She said such a move would help drive a national debate on the issue.
Ms McGuinness said Irish people still had a hang-up with land ownership.
However, she pointed out that "you don't have to own land to farm".