Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 18 January 2019

'A hard Brexit might be the best thing for our dairy industry - it would free up lots of land'

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Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

A hard Brexit could, indirectly, provide some opportunities for high profit dairy farmers, according to one leading Agri Consultant.

Cork consultant Mike Brady told the Grassland Conference this week that at the moment young people coming into dairy farming have to be prepared to move for their chosen career.

He said that young dairy farmers who don't own or even come from a farm can have a successful and profitable career in farming, but they must be prepared to move location to do so.

"If you're from West Cork you're not going to end up milking 300 cows in West Cork. So you better be prepared to move where there will be opportunities."

However, he also said that a hard Brexit may present an opportunity for some farmers, notably high profit dairy farmers.

"It's a harsh thing to say but a hard Brexit might be the best thing ever for the dairy industry. That will free up lots of land."

He said that a hard Brexit might be tough on the dairy industry, but it would be 'catastrophic' on the beef industry in Ireland.

"There is going to be substantially less single farm payment and if there are tariffs going into Britain, it will be catastrophic for the beef industry in this country.

"Figures from the National Farm Survey show that if you take out the subsidies, the average beef farmer with 100 acres loses €3,000 a year. If that goes to minus €20,000 a year, will he continue to do it?

"I doubt it. So that will free up land for dairy farmers, which is profitably and will be profitable, even if you take a 20pc hit if we have a hard Brexit, they will still survive."

"It could be an opportunity for high profit dairy farmers, which it is for high profit farmers in the UK."

Land in the West

Meanwhile, growing inequality in the farming sector will lead to a return of "landlordism" in the west, Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said land purchases in the West were now dominated by either large-scale dairy operations or forestry interests, with small drystock farmers losing out.

"It's either trees or the big dairymen that are mopping up all the ground that's coming for sale," Mr Fitzmaurice said.

He said local drystock farmers did not have the borrowing capacity to compete with either of these groups, adding that large dairy operators had the access to credit and the CAP payments to outbid most drystock farmers for any good parcels of land that came on the market.

Private forestry interests were also willing to pay more for planting ground, he said. Deputy Fitzmaurice (right) claimed that over €5,000/ac was paid for a section of land near the Galway-Roscommon border recently that is likely to go for trees.

"I see this happening around the country. Local farmers with 50-60ac who are trying to buy 20-30ac more just can't get the finance to compete with the dairy farmers or forestry interests," he said.

"The small man and woman are being pushed out." He said State-backed low-interest loans should be made available to farmers with under 100ac who are seeking to expand the size of their holding to a commercial level, or who are looking to consolidate a fragmented farm.

"Something has to be done to help these farmers, because Ireland is heading for a return to landlordism the way the land market is going," he stated.

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