As we covered last week, inheritance was the traditional method of passing farms on from one generation to the next.
Given the high proportion of farmers who have no identified successor, it is a safe assumption to make that this as a method of land transfer will not work any longer.
Were Irish agriculture an industry filled with young farmers, then the lack of identification of successors would not be an issue, however, with an average age of 58, it is a real issue.
Decline in farmers
Were the Government to let this situation run on unabated, then we will see less and less farmers, and we will see more land go fallow and less family farms.
This is not alarmist: if the 60% who have not identified a successor do not identify one soon, there is a good chance that the land will be passed onto the nearest relative/s, who may indeed put the land on the market – thus removing a family farm from our rural community.
Macra will continually tell you that we have the best educated young farmers in the EU, having seen what some of our members are doing, and this is not an empty claim. It is the truth.
Barriers to entry – land access
We see agriculture as an industry and just as with any other industry, we want to see no barriers to entry. Unfortunately, there are massive barriers to entry at the moment – the main one being access to land.
If a young farmer is in a partnership with their mother or father, then access to land is not an issue. Access to additional land may be, however, they are still in a position to at least farm on the home farm.
If a young farmer does not have access to land through inheritance/partnerships, then what are they to do?
Unless they have a sufficiently large deposit of cash and access to credit, they will not be in a position to buy land, neither will they be in a position to rent land.
I am going to answer the question before it is asked as to why a young farmer cannot buy or lease land. It’s simple: the market precludes her/him.
We have all seen our nitrates derogation decrease from 250 to 220; our next battle is to retain 220.
What does this do? It increases the demand for land (both purchased and leased) and in so doing, it drives up prices that are already ridiculous to become unattainable, to all, save for existing farmers with a strong credit history.
In addition to the nitrates directive driving up the cost of land, farmers are in competition with developers, solar farms, wind farms and forestry for the remaining land. It is not a fair fight, and prices keep increasing with no abatement in sight.
Right now, with very few exceptions, the only way that a young farmer can get into the industry is to inherit; if that is not an option, then a Quantas boarding pass awaits them.
Macra National President
2023 – 2025