Ireland's beef and sheep sectors, which account for approximately 80,000 family farms, need a succession pathway that works for young farmers and exiting older farmers, says Macra na Feirme.

The young farmer organisation says such a pathway must come from the sustainability work of the recently formed Food Vision beef and sheep forum.

Macra president John Keane made the association’s position on the matter clear following the second meeting of the forum on Thursday.

Keane said that “in the context of sustainability, which is front and foremost in all discussion in relation to agriculture, it is important to remember that in order for agriculture to sustain we need new people entering the sector to carry it forward”.

‘Young people want to go farming’

The Macra president described how “young people want to go farming, but policies here to fore have not been assessed in relation to generational renewal” and warned of “the impacts that these policies have on providing young people with opportunities to enter the farming sector”.

Keane highlighted that the largest number of farmers in Ireland are in the beef and sheep sectors, accounting for approximately 80,000 family farms.

He said it is “crucial” that the beef and sheep forum develops a succession pathway for farmers in the sectors as part of the sustainability report it develops.

Dairy group

Reflecting on the work of the prior-established Food Vision dairy group, Keane raised concerns about its interim report and the matter of dairy sector generational renewal.

“The voluntary scheme proposed only promotes land locking and not generational renewal. Putting limits on the ability of land to produce fodder or support livestock production systems will not achieve generational renewal on Irish family farms.

“The beef and sheep group must support the need for more young people to enter farming with tangible measures that can also support the realising of our climate action plan targets.

"Assessing all proposals and policies on the impact that they have on attracting young people into farming is crucial given that currently less than 6% of farmers are under 35,” he said.