Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Youth plans to expand farms a welcome sight

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Young farmers appear determined to be major players in the drive for expansion in Irish agriculture over the coming years. The latest survey of Macra na Feirme members confirms that there is real enthusiasm among its membership for pushing output.

And this is not just limited to the dairy sector. While 86pc of young dairy farmers intend growing their business, 75pc of young beef farmers aim to do the same.

The figures for those with sheep and tillage enterprises were equally impressive, with 70pc and 62pc respectively aiming to increase output.

This is good news for Irish agriculture. Every industry needs the energy of youth to drive it on, especially farming given that the planning and management of the farm business has to be matched by an ability to do hard, physical work.

There is certainly an air of positivity in the farm sector at the moment and that is clear from the Macra survey.

An amazing 84.2pc of those surveyed said the outlook for Irish agriculture was good or very good. Just 10.6pc said the future was not good, while 4.2pc were undecided.

There also appears to be a deal of reality in what the respondents would be willing to pay for additional farmland.

Close to 50pc of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay €5,000-8,000/ac for land, while 23.9pc said €8,000-11,000/ac. There are a lot of farmers who want to pay less but the likelihood of decent ground being sold at anything less than €6,000 is slim.

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Respondents identified access to credit as a real problem for those with expansion plans. The perception that banks have stopped lending to all but the safest of applicants was borne out by the fact that almost two-thirds of those surveyed had not applied for any loans over the past 12 months.

How the plans for expansion can be squared with the acceptance that the banks are not lending is one of the anomalies of the survey.

Similarly, how 25pc of those in dairying hope to grow milk output by 40pc over the next two years without access to quota and to credit is hard to fathom.

With the country facing a superlevy next April, and production growth up to 2015 restricted, Ireland will need a major concession on milk quotas from the EU for some form of expansion to be possible.

Meanwhile, although clearance was given for AEOS payments this week, the IFA's Tom Turley claimed that digitisation was continuing to delay some payments.

It is rumoured that sheep payments under Targeted Agricultural Measures Scheme will also start this week.

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