The Irish Farm Report 2021, was published by ifac this week. It contained views from 1,700 farmers from across all sectors, with some surprising and not-so surprising results.
A survey carried out in a year when agriculture faced the challenges of a global pandemic and Brexit, it would be expected the findings might be severe.
A year where Ireland’s largest trading partner left the EU single market and customs union, resulting in the introduction of new barriers to trade.
Yet, 56% of farmers surveyed remain positive about farming and more than four in five expect to still be farming five years from now. Unsurprisingly, incomes continue to be an issue with beef farmers where dairy farmers have the most positive outlook.
Apart from the various detail and future outlooks for each sector such as dairy, beef, sheep, tillage, pigs and poultry, the findings with regard to succession plans, financial planning, pensions, ways to wellbeing and recovery were of real interest.
Financial planning and succession
Financial planning continues to be a problem with farmers unsure of what is needed to fund a modest pension.
An interesting finding was 71% have no successor in place, citing the farm as not being viable enough. Yet three in five don’t complete any budgets or cashflows. Financial planning and sustainability of a farm go hand-in-hand.
It was good news to see that half of the respondents had given some thought to succession, of these, 29% have identified a successor while 21% have a successor in mind.
Overall, this means that less than one in three farmers surveyed have a definite plan for the future of the family farm. Such a high-value asset needs more serious consideration.
It was of real concern to find that 40% of farmers have no will made. When you consider the overall age profile of farmers in Ireland, this could end up in a very serious situation. Yet 81% of respondents said they will still be in farming in five years’ time.
It wasn’t surprising to see that over 70% of farmers would like to see buying and selling in the marts to continue post-COVID-19. Technology is essential today, and over 86% considered broadband as critical to rural life.
It was good to see, based on the survey, 56% of farmers have a positive outlook on their sector. This is a strong indicator of the resilience and strength of rural Ireland and farmers across the country.
Due to COVID-19 it would be expected that there would be negative impacts and three in four farmers confirmed that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their social life. It also found that 68% of farmers stated it had negatively impacted their community involvement.
Another worrying finding was that 42% of respondents stated they didn’t know who to call to help with life challenges.