This week (November 27th) has been marked the launch of the Land Mobility Programme’s second phase.
This follows an initial two-year pilot period, which has seen the initiative break new ground in developing a culture of generational change and longer term land leasing in Northern Ireland.
In turn, this is helping to develop sustainable careers for young people, where production agriculture is concerned.
John McCallister, the man in charge of the programme takes up the story: “Land Mobility is also helping farmers and their families to approach the challenge of succession in a more proactive manner.”
A report, covering the initial phase of the programme, has also been published.
It confirms that a total of 28 arrangements were facilitated during the pilot period. These arrangements covered approximately 4,500 acres. The average farm size involved in each arrangement was 161 acres.
John McCallister again: “Almost 90% of arrangements are still in place. Contract heifer rearing accounted for 25% of the agreements put in place.
“The average age of farmers was 60, while the average age of partners involved was 37.
“In terms of gender, 86% of farmers involved are male. The equivalent figure for partners is 93% male. Co Down has the highest uptake of the scheme with 24% of the arrangements finalised being centred in that area.”
Phase 2 of the programme will, again, be coordinated by the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) in conjunction with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).
Funding will be provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the Prince’s Countryside Fund and agri-food sector sponsors.
In this context the redmeat industry is represented by the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA).
The sponsors representing the dairy processing sector comprise: Dale Farm, Lakeland Dairies, Aurivo and Glanbia.
John McCallister is confident that the Land Mobility programme will grow from strength to strength to strength over the coming two years.
But he feels more could be done by the UK governments to facilitate this work.
He specifically cited the need for tax changes, which would greatly facilitate the long term transfer of land from older farmers to the next generation.
He continued: “This has already happened in the Republic of Ireland, where a 2017 agri taxation review confirmed that access to land and the low levels of land mobility are two of the core challenges facing farmers who want to increase their productivity.
“The review also recognised a consensus that the actual use of land is becoming more of an issue than ownership.
“In the wake of these conclusions, changes were made to the tax system in the Republic, which have greatly encouraged land mobility.”
In practical terms, the tax changes introduced in Ireland have seen the fraction of farmed area that is let on arm’s length terms for five years and more growing from two per cent to almost seven per cent.
Approximately 450,000 acres have been newly let on such terms in just the three years since the enhanced reliefs were available, with that land coming from in-hand farmland as well as land that had been let out on seasonal conacre.
In addition, some 10,000 Irish farmland owners are now the landlords of arm’s length tenants for at least five years.
According to John McCallister, analysis carried out by Jeremy Moody of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers indicates that the replication of similar trends in the UK, would see farm productivity increase by some £100m across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
He concluded: “This is conclusive proof that the Inland Revenue must act to put in place new tax arrangements, similar to those already enacted in the Republic of Ireland.
“All stakeholders with the farming and food sectors, including our politicians, must take up this case in the strongest possible terms. And the clock is ticking.”
For further information, contact John McCallister on 07833 668602 or e mail: email@example.com