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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘It is the new entrant and older farmer cohorts that most need support and guidance’

Part two of an article with That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, is in conversation with Mícheál Larkin from the Land Mobility Service. We discuss generation renewal, finding solutions,

Enquiries, engagements and facilitation of land mobility arrangements are increasing yearly.

In 2021, there were over 830 enquiries leading to over 400 direct engagements with 120 arrangements facilitated. This accounted for the mobilisation of well over 50,000-acres of land to date.

The service supports all landowners, existing and new farmers, but the cohort with whom the service most engages are farmers with no identified farming successor and those with a successor but requiring an additional land resource for viability.

The service represents an important generational renewal and access to land tool.

Studies have shown this cohort requires support outside the traditional initiatives.

The Land Mobility and Succession in Ireland from Pat Bogue 2012 shows that 48% of full-time farmers had no identified farming successor, and 26% of all farmers are over 65.

IFAC 2020 show that one in three farmers doo no progress succession due to viability fears. Shane Conway NUI Galway (2019) highlighted the benefit of funded facilitation to landowners.

There is a significant cohort of farmers who are of an age to step back but need support and options outside the simple or traditional farming successor.

Land mobility 

2016 Farm Structures Survey CSO:

  • 7,400 farmers under 35 (5%);
  • 41,200 over 65 (30%);
  • 34,700 aged 55 to 64 (25%).

The hard-to-reach target cohort exceeds 30,000 farmers (data sources: Teagasc, IFAC, dairy co-op supplier surveys, Pat Bogue, Land Mobility Service).

A positive generational renewal outcome for this cohort requires matching, family input and support, non-family collaboration, focused facilitation and building a sustainable farm plan.

The positive outcomes would be:

  • A family farming succession/progression made possible by way of access to extra land for viability;
  • Collaboration (non-family) with a young-trained farmer who has little or no land or;
  • Collaboration with an existing younger farmer.
Benefits

The benefits of positive farmer generational renewal and young people to rural communities are well established.

This generational renewal does not have to be confined to within the family or land ownership. Many successful and sustainable farming enterprises are operated by excellent young farmers, who own no or little land.

Apart from the social benefits delivered by young farmers, there is evidence to show that they better adopt modern technologies and environmental considerations.

Both their carbon footprint and income return per unit of output tends to be more positive than that of older farmers, Teagasc and Land Mobility Service 2019 report (study of productivity pre and post-collaboration).

Results 

The risk and past experience from relying on traditional young farmer supports and landowner exit measures alone to deliver change are that the result is:

  1. a) A lack of awareness of the support measures and how they can be availed of in conjunction with all the other elements and schemes within a CAP, e.g. a positive environmental scheme could have a negative generational renewal or land access impact due to landowner misinformation or misunderstanding.
  2. b) Delivery, but not enough to reverse a trend due to insufficient support at farm level and/or facilitation with obstacles and identifying collaborators;
  3. c) A focus on one party rather than a sustainable and win-win outcome;
  4. d) Land underutilised or abandoned;
  5. e) Conglomeration with young farmers disadvantaged and large operators accessing available land.

Awareness and engagement with the service are growing yearly. Those who contact particularly like the confidential nature of the service.

There is likely to be an option for your situation; however, the first step is to make contact.

It is the new entrant and older farmer cohorts that most need support and guidance.

What turns out to be the most suitable arrangement varies. It is all about facilitating a solution that works for all parties.

All options for all people

The service looks at all options for people. A big challenge with delivering generational renewal and access to land is that what you are dealing with is time-consuming, often sensitive, requires expertise, discretion and patience and is often protracted.

In addition, finding the best solutions for dealing with EU supports, environmental regulations, and entitlements are vital to arrangement delivery.

It is for this reason that The Land Mobility matching and facilitation service is such an important tool.

We aim to deliver arrangements that are sustainable, fair and appropriate, effort and supported. The alternatives are either nothing happens, or price becomes the sole factor of delivery. This results in relatively short-term and unsustainable arrangements.

The Land Mobility Service, as an independent service, has proven through the past 5-7 years that Ireland requires such a service.

The concept is lauded at European level, and many other jurisdictions are modelling similar interventions on the Irish Land Mobility Service.

Other news articles on That’s Farming:

In the first segment of this two-part article, we looked at what land mobility is, what the Irish Land Mobility Service has to offer, who it is suitable for and its benefits.

Read this news article.

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