Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 23 November 2017

Macra survey highlights hunger for bigger farms

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

THE hunger for land among young farmers is growing, with 85pc of the next generation of farmers intending to expand their home farm, according to a survey of Macra na Feirme members carried out ahead of the final round of the FBD Young Farmer of the Year contest tomorrow.

Long-term leasing and land purchase are top of the list of ways young farmers intend to expand their farms, with partnerships, conacre and sharefarming trailing in their wake.

Just 15pc of the 207 young farmers surveyed said they did not intend to expand their businesses.

Some 32pc of the farmers who intend to expand want to do it through long-term leasing, while 25pc would prefer to buy land outright. Another 19pc said they would prefer to expand through partnerships, while the rest want to do it through conacre (13.6pc) or share-farming (10.2pc).

However, Macra na Feirme president Kieran O'Dowd warned that there were legal obstacles preventing young farmers from expanding through leasing.

STABILITY

"Long-term leasing must be encouraged to ensure stability in the industry, but the recent Law Society Regulation 2012 (SI 375/2012) requires the lessor and lessee to have separate legal representation," he explained. "This is seen as a barrier to entering into long-term leases as two sets of legal fees arise."

He added that Macra was proposing a double rent relief incentive for the first year of rental expenditure for long-term leases. Almost half (46pc) of the farmers surveyed said the Food Harvest 2020 targets for the dairy sector would only be achievable if they could access more land.

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Similarly, 50pc of farmers said the beef target of increasing growth by 40pc would only be achieved with more land.

The survey found that the vast majority (67.4pc) of young farmers expected to succeed to their family farm between the ages of 25 and 35.

Some 14.5pc said they expected to take over the farm before they were 25-years-old, but 18.1pc said they would be older than 35 before the farm was transferred.

Late transfer of farms to the younger generation has been a major issue for Macra members and Macra na Feirme is in the process of appointing a land programme manager to address the issues affecting land mobility and farm transfers.

"Young farmers must be empowered to develop their farm business at this age if they are to impact on the wider industry," insisted Mr O'Dowd.

RELIEF

"Incentives for early transfer of farms such as young farmer stamp duty relief and the 90pc agricultural relief are important measures to support young farmers."

The majority (83pc) of young farmers surveyed maintained they would be able to become established in farming earlier if there was a well-funded installation aid package available to them.

Some 67pc also said they would set up in their own right earlier if they received a 25pc single farm payment (SFP) top-up.

Irish Independent