Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Who will take over the reins at your farm?

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

"Who will take over the farm?"

It's a question that every farming family has to address.

For some the decision will be easy but, for others, the topic is fraught with anxiety, emotion and turmoil.

Farming is a business like any other, yet many farm owners have no long-term plan with regard to succession.

Research has shown that eight out of 10 farmers have yet to firmly identify their successor and less than half have made a will.

The age profile of farmers was clear to see in the streets of Dublin last week. One wag commented that the protest could easily have passed for the 'grey brigade in wellies' such was the dearth of young farmers.

The ongoing series of Teagasc farm succession seminars have been drawing crowds of up to 600 people each night. The audiences have included crowds of all ages, with people from their teens to their 80s in the audience.

In some cases, entire families have come along to seek advice on how best to proceed with handing over the farm to the next generation.

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Succession Ireland mediator Claire O'Keeffe advises farmers to begin planning for farm succession between the ages of 45 and 55 and advocates talking to children about the possibility of taking over the farm once they have completed their Junior Certificate.

Filling out the CAO form is an ideal time to ask children what they think of farming as a potential career, she maintains. Clear communication is the order of the day when talking about farm succession. This applies not only to identifying the successor but also to the responsibilities that will be attached to taking over the farm.

Parents need to spell out that if one son or daughter is going to take over the farm, he or she will be expected to provide for his parents in their old age.

Equally, the other siblings need to be told how they have been or will be provided for. Secrecy, whispers and lack of clarity about who will take over the farm could ultimately lead to arguments, conflict and, even worse, aggression and family breakdown. Nobody wants that.

So who is going to take over your farm?

Indo Farming