Breakdown of a successor’s marriage a ‘key concern’ for dairy farmers

Research has shown that the risk of a marriage breakdown is a “key concern” for dairy farmers, because of the potential loss of farms through the subsequent division of assets.

The study ‘Risky (farm) business: Perceptions of economic risk in farm succession and inheritance’ carried out by Teagasc and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) found that the breakdown of a successor’s marriage appeared as a key concern for dairy farmers, because of the potential loss of the farm through subsequent division of assets.

The concerns were centred on the risk of not only of losing an asset laden with personal value, but also an economic asset.

Marriage was seen as a “barrier to farm transfer rather than a pivotal moment that encouraged a farmer to engage in the process – it is construed as a risk which may in certain circumstances constitute a reason to defer farm transfer”. The study shows that these concerns are more significant for dairy farmers than beef farmers.

‘Who they pick as partners has a huge influence’

One of the farmers who took part in the study said: “The real fear farmers have in the back of their minds is [that] the farm won’t be secure going forward, especially now with family break-ups.

If you transfer land to your son and your son gets married and the marriage breaks up, the farm has to be sold. That’s the real fear.

According to the study, these comments “summarise the concerns raised by several dairy farmers and also resonate with research findings in international contexts”.

Another farmer from the study who is a father to only daughters was “clear on the fact that their partners would influence his decision on farm transfer”.

He said: “It depends on who my daughters team up with; who they pick as partners has a huge influence on it.”

The study said that a “lack of any form of mitigation against the possible eventuality of the farm being sold means that farmers have no control over the situation, which only servers to heighten negative perceptions of the farm transfer process”.

It also said: “Given the widespread concern amongst dairy farmers in relation to successor marital breakdown, a case is to be made for reconsidering the current legalities associated with prenuptial agreements.”