Tide turns on age profile of Irish farmers

The tide is beginning to turn with regards to the age profile of Irish farmers, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Minister Creed was speaking at the launch of the results from Macra na Feirme’s Land Mobility Service pilot programme today.

“The latest client data from my Department does suggest that, finally, we have more farmers under the age of 35 than over the age of 80.

“That may sound, in a sense, like a hapless statement of ambition. But it is a reality that we have grappled with for a long, long time.

Hopefully we are beginning to turn the tide in respect of the age profile in farming.

The issue of inter-generational transfers – and how to assist and support them – is a critical aspect of the current CAP reform consultancy proposals, Minister Creed said.

“In truth, many farmers don’t want to retire fully, and I understand and respect that wish. What we need are arrangements that work for both the older farmer and the new generation.

“I think it is important to reflect the fact that most farms are family businesses, where the skills and talents of all family members, particularly farm women, can contribute to building viable farm businesses in the future,” he added.

Young farmers

Facilitating inter-generational change and land mobility, to allow for productive use of Irish farmland in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability, is a key priority for Minister Creed.

“During the last CAP reform, the Irish presidency insisted on supports for young, trained farmers being prioritised in the CAP budget.

“As a result, we have a Young Farmers Scheme, as part of the Basic Payment Scheme, and general supports and top-ups for young, trained farmers under our Rural Development Programme.

My Department has worked hard to provide support and encouragement for collaborative farming arrangements – both family and non-family types.

“For example, the establishment of a register of formal farm partnerships, with supports for the establishment costs of partnerships available under the collaborative farming scheme in the Rural Development Programme,” he said.

Perceived administrative barriers to putting farms in the joint name of a husband and wife have also been addressed, Minister Creed added.

Financial benefits

Tax changes over the last three budgets, Minister Creed said, have provided a comprehensive set of supports to encourage early farm transfers, long-term leasing and farm partnerships.

“Tax treatment of agricultural assets means that the family farm can be transferred onto younger generations without any tax liability arising in most cases.

Generous incentives apply to encourage farm land to be leased out in long-term lease arrangements, rather than the conacre system, allowing for proper planning and investment in leased land.

“The Succession Farm Partnership Scheme will promote the inter-generational succession of family farms in line with Government commitments and the Food Wise 2025 Strategy.

“It will encourage and support important conversations within farm families about succession planning. This then provides for a €25,000 tax credit over five years to assist with the transfer of farms within a partnership structure,” he said.

A whole host of arrangements are currently being finalised within the Department and Minister Creed confirmed that he will launch the succession farm partnership register in the near future.

“As a result of these efforts, we are starting to see more young people taking over farms – whether it be through farm transfers, family and non-family partnership arrangements or other collaborative arrangements,” he said.