YFCU and UFU: Farming needs better access for young people

YFCU president Roberta Simmons
YFCU president Roberta Simmons

To help get more young people into farming the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) are planning to launch a new land mobility scheme for Northern Ireland.

As a starting point a survey of several hundred UFU members will be carried out by Countryside Services.

UFU president Ian Marshall

UFU president Ian Marshall

YFCU president Roberta Simmons said: “Earlier this year we and the UFU developed plans for a land mobility initiative, similar to the pilot scheme already in place in the Republic of Ireland.

“This has been working well under the leadership of Macra na Feirme.”

Driving the plan is the fact that large numbers of farms here have no succession arrangements in place.

“Our plan is to put older farmers facing this challenge in touch with younger farmers wanting to get into the industry.

“Both can then jointly develop long-term operational and financial plans for the farm – a classic mix of experience and youth coming together to the benefit of both,” said Ms Simmons.

According to the Irish Land Mobility Service just six per cent of farmers south of the border are under 35, while more than a quarter are over 65.

This age imbalance is compounded by many older farmers not having a farming successor.

The survey that will take place here over the coming weeks will almost certainly find a similar problem.

UFU president, Ian Marshall, is encouraging members to take part in the survey.

He said: “This initial information about the scale of the problem here is a vital first step if we are to make progress with a land mobility scheme in Northern Ireland.

“The intention is to create a broader range of succession options that would not otherwise be available to retiring or retired farmers,” he said,

He added that this will create a win/win situation for both the older farmer and the developing young farmer.

“At the end of the day the future of our industry lies in getting more young farmers involved,” he said.

After the survey is completed, the YFCU and UFU hope to launch the full land mobility initiative in the first half of next year.