Generational renewal is a priority

Generational renewal within agriculture is now a priority for farm policy makers in Northern Ireland.

The discussion document, recently published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) as part of the ongoing public consultation on future farm policy options, provides in-depth analysis on the ways by which greater numbers of young people can commit to a future within agriculture.

Land Mobility programme manager John McCallister believes this to be a very positive development.

He explained: “The current policy review gives farming as a whole a unique opportunity to establish new support measures that will allow it grow and develop on a sustainable basis for many years to come.

“And generational renewal will be an important part of the plans set in place for the future. Young people bring with them tremendous enthusiasm, energy and new ideas.

“It goes without saying that the farming industry must do whatever is needed to encourage the brightest and best young minds into the industry.”

Meanwhile the current Land Mobility programme will continue in its present form, at least until September of this year.

Looking back on 2021, John characterises the year as one that had a very stop: start nature.

He explained: “The Covid-19 restrictions, particularly those re-introduced post Christmas 2020, hampered the hosting of face-to face meetings.

“It’s only possible to build relationships to a certain extent courtesy of Zoom meetings. Final arrangements can only be brokered on the back of actual farm visits and physical meetings.

“That said, the number of agreements reached between older landowners wishing to establish long term working relationships with younger people coming into the industry increased at a steady rate throughout 2021.”

John is confirming that the Land Mobility programme has encouraged significant numbers of farming families to start discussing the issue of succession at a much earlier stage than would have previously been the case.

“This is reflected in the number of inquiries I am now receiving,” he said.

“It’s also evident that the vast majority of farmers coming to the end of their active careers want to see their businesses passed on to the next generation and maintained as active concerns.

“If this cannot be achieved within a family group then Land Mobility can act to help find young people with the right skill sets and attitude that can take on the running of the business in full compliance with the owners’ wishes.”

John continued: “I am also available to sit down with any farm family and advise on all aspects of succession within their business.”

Looking ahead, John hopes to again host one-to-one Land Mobility advisory clinics in Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) offices across Northern Ireland.

He commented; “These have worked tremendously well in the past. Obviously, any future meetings can only be held once the current Covid threat recedes sufficiently.”

The purpose of the Land Mobility service is to facilitate collaborative arrangements tailored to suit any specific farm business situation.

These arrangements may be as simple or as complex as desired. They must be workable for all parties involved and can be within or outside the family or a combination of both.

In many cases it is envisaged that the arrangements will evolve overtime, to help develop dynamic, progressive and profitable farm businesses.

Last September, Land Mobility reached a land mark stage in its development when the number of young people wishing to avail of the scheme is greater than that of older farmers offering land or wanting to develop new partnership, long term leasing or other business arrangements.

John McCallister again: “This development reflects the real demand that exists among younger people to develop careers in production agriculture.

“The average farmer age in Northern Ireland is still too high. The good news is that the Land Mobility Programme is making a genuine difference when it comes to offering younger people an opportunity to develop sustainable careers within the various farming sectors.”

Meanwhile, the Land Mobility programme manager believes that the Stormont Executive can do more to facilitate enhanced generational change within farming.

He explained: “One obvious way forward is the introduction of tax changes that will encourage the establishment of new working relationships between farmers who want to retire and younger people seeking long term leasing, or other business relationships with older landowners.

John added: “Taxation is not a devolved matter, so it will require decisions being taken by the HMRC in London to give the Land Mobility Programme the boost it needs.

“If we had a scenario within which land rental incomes could be availed of on a tax-free basis by older landowners, who have entered into long term leasing arrangement with a younger farmer, this could transform the means through which large areas of land can be kept in productive use.

“Such an arrangement could provide the older person with a very valuable pension pot, while allowing the younger person to develop a sustainable, long term business venture.”

John concluded: “Substantial tax changes have been introduced in the Republic of Ireland, all designed to encourage younger people to develop careers within the various farming sectors.

“To say that we need a similar approach to be taken here, and across the UK as a whole, is stating the obvious.”

Listed below are the January 2022 Land Mobility match-ups. If any of these opportunities are of interest to you, contact John McCallister (pictured). Phone: 07833 668602 or e mail:[email protected].

Farms available

170 cow dairy farmer looking for share farmer. Farm has the capacity to increase cow numbers significantly. Good grazing block and laneways. Farmer open to options of share farming/profit share arrangement. This would allow a mix of share farmer bringing additionally cows to farm. An excellent opportunity.......Co Antrim

160 cow herd close to 10,000 l average. Good parlour and high yielders on robot. Good grazing block. Farm has sheep and small number of suckler cows. Farmer interested in share farming or type of profit share. Excellent opportunity as farmer keen to start transition and stepping back.....Co Tyrone

Farm over 200 acres of very good land. Former dairy farm so over 250 cubicles and no milking parlour but could be replaced. Farmer currently running a beef enterprise but wanting to step back and very open to options and keen to provide an opportunity for a young farmer.......Co Down

60-acre main farm with over 200 acres of upland farmland. Good cattle housing and handling facilities. Farmer looking for options and happy to have some help on farm for use of land and sheds. Good suckler/beef and sheep farm....... Co Londonderry

Superb poultry unit looking for a young farmer for share farm/profit share arrangement. Excellent opportunity.... Co Londonderry

Farm for long term lease. 150 cubicles, milking parlour and milk tank. Good quality housing. Suitable for grazing or housed system. Good long-term opportunity....Co Tyrone

Starter opportunity. Role of Assistant Farm Manager on 450 cow grazing herd. Opportunity to keep 40/50 of your own cows on farm. Great way to gain experience in grass-based dairying and build up equity in livestock. Accommodation on farm....... Co Limerick

Young Farmers looking for:

Additional land and/or contract dairy heifer rearer. 130 cow unit probably need accommodation and summer grazing for 100 heifers in total...... Co Armagh

Additional land and/or contract dairy heifer rearer. Would like accommodation and summer grazing for 100+ heifers in total but could start with smaller numbers and increase over time..... Co Londonderry

Additional land for arable enterprise on long term lease. Will invest in land, soil testing regularly, building up soil structure, crop rotation and working land into very best condition. Experienced young farmer running successful arable business. Keen to enter long term agreement to provide security for both parties...... Co Down/Armagh

Land and suitable housing for large number of dairy heifers. Would also consider a heifer rearing agreement if farm suitable and farmer wanting to manage dairy heifer. A good opportunity for a former dairy farm with good housing and cubicles....... Co Down

Long-term land for arable business. Will invest in land. Has grown winter cover crops in improve land and very keen on a long-term agreement to allow for investment in the land....... Co Down

Land, possibly for arable crops mainly for own use and help with slurry. Would consider different options from a long-term lease to share farm agreement....... Co Down

Arable land on long term lease. Will invest in land, soil testing regularly, building up soil structure, crop rotation and working land into the very best condition. ... Campsie/Eglinton area

Young farmer and family seeks dairy farm to rent or share milking arrangement. 130 milking cows plus followers on all year-round calving system. Cows averaging 27 litres on grass - Preferably County Antrim.

Young farmer and family seeks dairy farm to rent. Milking parlour, cubicle house and slurry storage.... North Antrim.

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