Banker’s insight: Inheritance, farm succession and the weather

Bank of Ireland (BOI) held an agri outlook seminar for farming families in Co. Kildare yesterday evening, with a focus on dealing with current challenges – including the weather.

The topic of farm succession was also under the spotlight.

Held last night (Monday, July 23) in the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, the event focused on the future for farm families in counties Kildare and Carlow.

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan was guest speaker at the event, while Paul Keogh, chair of the Centre of Family Business at DCU (Dublin City University), also spoke on the topic of family farm succession.

Opening the event, Bank of Ireland’s head of agriculture Sean Farrell addressed the gathered farmers saying: “There has been great growth in output and investment, particularly from our dairy farmers, over the last number of years.”

Stressing the importance of agriculture to the bank, Farrell outlined issues that would have to be considered by farmers going forward.

“When we look to the future and we’re considering all the various inputs and challenges and opportunities for the sector, we’re thinking about issues like climate change – what impact emissions might have in the development of our livestock sector here in Ireland.”

The head of agriculture welcomed the opening of new markets in China and the US for Irish exports, but warned: “There’s still 35% of all of our food and drink and 50% of our beef exports going to the UK. So the implications of Brexit are obviously critical.”

Farm succession

Farrell added: “One of the other main issues we in the bank encounter very regularly is in the whole area of inheritance, farm transfer and succession planning.

“Having spent many years dealing with farmers and farm families, one comment that I’d make on this area is that farmers potentially could achieve a lot more if they invested a little bit more time planning their futures with their families.

There’s many tax reliefs and allowances available that are usually – but not always – availed of.

“And also we sometimes encounter family disagreements because of farm transfers and family settlements.

“Sometimes that’s because there’s been very limited discussion around the future of the farm within that family itself.

Drought hardship

“I want to mention the current drought that’s impacting every farmer in this room, be they livestock or arable,” Farrell said.

“It’s actually ironic that this meeting was originally scheduled for March 2, and we had to cancel it because of Storm Emma, when it was the worst snow storm in about 40 years.

“And here we are a couple of months later hopefully coming to the end of what may be the worst drought in the same period of time.

We’re very conscious that there’s financial costs on farmers at the moment; and there’s also an emotional cost to it.

Concluding, Farrell stressed: “If [as a customer of the bank] you need any support, working capital or need to talk to someone from the bank about the need to change from your current financial situation, then please seek one of us out.

“Call into one of our branches; or call us, and we’ll look to help your business, because we understand that we need to support through troughs as well as through peaks.”