‘Young farmers lack proper mindset and knowledge’

Macra’s land mobility service has hit an unexpected stumbling block, as it struggles to find young farmers with the right experience and mind-set to enter into a shared-farming relationship.

Speaking at the recent Teagasc National Collaborative Farming Conference in Clonmel, head of the Land Mobility Service, Austin Finn said: “Initially when we were setting up the service we were told we would have no problem getting the young lads, the biggest problem will be the land owners.”

However he said it has turned out to be complete other way around. “We are able to get plenty of young lads. But not with the mind-set and knowledge to be able to go in and farm with somebody else. It’s one thing going home to your home farm with the support of parents. But going in farming with somebody else is a completely different thing. You need to have the right experience and mind-set.

“It’s not going in to take over a farm. You’re going into farm with that person,” he stated.

Finn stressed: “We have put a lot of effort into educating people on this. We feel it’s important to develop a database of young people that can go away and work with somebody else.”

On farm partnerships, Finn outlined: “Farmers have worked together for years. But, at the same time, structured collaboration is still a new concept in Ireland and something we have no tradition off.”

While he noted that there are a lot of farmers interested in collaborative farming CAP reform is an issue in the background. He said: “Really for a lot of people January 2016 is the new watershed. They might be exploring these things. But before they put anything solid in place it will be January 2016. As the last thing they want to do is jeopardise their Single Farm Payments.”

Finn also noted that land owner preference to farm rather than lease land, at least initially. “We have found this all over. Even though there is great tax incentives for long term leasing. That’s retiring. They don’t want to retire. They want to stay involved.

“How much they want to stay involved they might not be sure yet. But that will change as the relationship evolves between the farm partners. That’s why review mechanisms are important. These relationships will change over-time. But people want to stay involved they have been farming all their lives. They want to take a step back but not fully retire.”

Finn also noted new entrants have concerns also. “Will top up payments and other supports deliver in a shared arrangement? It is important that all types of collaboration are supported. Not just register partnerships.”

Finn concluded: “Arrangements must deliver for all parties.”