Land scarcity drives rental worry for 2015
Landowners 'take a punt' on SFP and refuse to renew leases
There are growing fears that the volume of farmland available to rent over the next three years will be slashed as landowners remove holdings from the market.
Increasing numbers of landowners are refusing to renew leases on their farms on the back of advice from agri-consultants that they could be in line to activate Single Farm Payment (SFP) entitlements of their own from 2015.
Farmers who rely on rented land to claim their existing entitlements are anxious that this trend will reduce the land available and spark the land grab predicted when the EU first revealed its CAP reform proposals.
"The land grab is starting to happen already. There were a lot of people left out of the system the last time and landowners have been thinking about this all summer," said Meath-based farm advisor, Cyril Darcy.
"They're prepared to take a punt now for a year or two. But this is going to be a major problem," he said.
Tipperary agronomist PJ Phelan agreed that the situation was heating up for all parties: "It's going to put a lot of pressure on the genuine farmer."
Mr Phelan said there would be a lot of share farming arrangements emerging "on paper" but that landowners could actually find themselves worse off if they began farming in order to generate entitlements on their land.
"Share farming arrangements will leave the landowner much more exposed to cross-compliance penalties from the Department and may even make the land less attractive because it will have lower entitlements," he said.