A pathway to succession is still a major concern for young farmers, according to Macra president, John Keane.

Speaking on the Agriland livestream at the National Ploughing Championships this week, Keane stated that he was heartened by the number of young people attending the event.

However, he noted that only 5% of active farmers are young farmers under the age of 35, with a change in policy being the only solution to addres this.

Keane noted that the three main concerns for young farmers remain: Access to land; access to finance; and a succession plan for farms.

Macra president, John Keane speaking to Agriland at Ploughing 2022

Succession scheme

Keane noted that there are concerns among older farmers regarding financial security when they do step back from farming.

He stated: “Older farmers who are at the retirement age or into their 70s, are looking at their financial viability for their partners and for their families.

“‘If I don’t continue to farm, what is going to be my income to sustain myself long into the future?’ and that question has to be asked of the policy makers.

“Why are we not delivering an on-farm succession scheme that delivers for older farmers to give them that security to step back from farming, but also allow younger farmers to step forward?”

Some of the measures that Macra would like to be included in the scheme are investment support, increased supports from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), so that both older and younger farmers have financial security.

Retirement scheme

Keane mentioned the retirement scheme that was in place during the early 2000s, which was met with some negative publicity.

He explained that a major positive to come from the scheme was the large number of farms transferred to young farmers.

Keane said: “The issue with scheme was that if an older farmer was caught with his wellies on outside the back door, their payments were at risk.

“A farmer might be carrying a bale of hay or helping to move cattle along a road and their payments were at risk because they were deemed to be farming.

“So what we need is for the young farmers to be able to step forward, but we can’t neglect and forget the experience that the older farmers can impart on younger generations.

“There must be a way through the succession scheme, that older farmers can still be available on farm, still help out on farm and provide that valuable experience that they have.”

Keane noted that young farmers will need to learn from the more experienced older farmers.

“We have a huge amount to learn from them so retiring that knowledge and experience would be a huge mistake, so we need to harness all of that,” Keane added.