Farmers’ group launches matchmaking service

Only 6 per cent of farmers are under 35 while 26 per cent are over 65

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said that swathes of land  were “totally unutilised” while a new generation of farmers were struggling to access land. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said that swathes of land were “totally unutilised” while a new generation of farmers were struggling to access land. Photograph: Eric Luke

Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 01:00

A new service matching older and younger farmers who want to work together has been introduced by Macra na Feirme.

The Land Mobility Service was set up by the young farmers’ group in an effort to tackle the ageing profile of Irish farmers. The reluctance of many farmers to retire means access to land is a major obstacle for young farmers. Only 6 per cent of farmers are under 35 while 26 per cent are over 65. Research released by Macra na Feirme last year found 48 per cent of farmers aged over 50 had not identified a successor.

Macra na Feirme president Kieran O’Dowd said encouraging collaborative arrangements could be the key to meeting increased production targets while addressing the age imbalance.


Providing opportunities
The Land Mobility Service is promoting different ways of farming, such as partnerships, shared farming and long-term leasing. This would address the reluctance of farmers to let their land go while providing opportunities for young farmers.

The project is supported by farming organisations, FBD Trust and dairy co-ops such as Aurivo, Dairygold and Glanbia.

Some 40,000 farmers lease land in conacre (short-term leasing) arrangements but these short leases hamper farmers who want to plan ahead. “Just over 6,000 [farmers] are in a long-term lease. These figures must be reversed,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said swathes of land around the country were “totally unutilised” while a new generation of farmers were struggling to access land.

He said the conacre system was “the worst case scenario, both for the person who is taking the land, because they don’t know if they’ll have it next year, and for the person who owns the land, because the person who is actually farming it isn’t investing in it.

“We need to move away from conacre and create new models around long-term leasing, around shared farming, around partnerships, around collaborative arrangements whereby farmers can achieve economies of scale while maintaining the family farm ownership that we value so strongly,” he said.

“What we do not want to do is to turn Ireland into some sort of ranch system whereby family farms are bought out by either large companies or large food suppliers.”

Pilot basis

While the Land Mobility Service is initially available to farmers, on a pilot basis, in Kilkenny, Roscommon and the Muskerry region of Co Cork, it will eventually be rolled out

countrywide. The service’s manager Austin Finn said it had already attracted more than 100 clients. They were particularly interested in family partnerships but contract rearing, which involves sub-contracting part of the enterprise, long-term leasing and shared farming were also generating interest, he added.