Overcoming the farming community’s stalwart persistence in their adherence to traditional succession and retirement practices, which effectively obstruct the transfer of farmland from one generation to the next, is a pressing matter for contemporary generational renewal in agriculture policy.
That is according to the creators of a new paper comparing International FARMTRANSEFRS data from Ireland and the state of Iowa, USA.
The work of Dr Shane Conway and Dr Maura Farrell in the Rural Studies Centra at NUI Galway, featured in a recent edition of Iowa State University’s Agricultural Policy Review.
It indicates that farmers’ reluctance and resistance to ‘step aside’ and retire from farming is not confined to one country but has a global dimension.
The International FARMTRANSFERS project is a global research collaboration investigating rates and patterns of farm succession and retirement.
Professor Matt Lobley, at the Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter, United Kingdom and John R. Baker, Attorney at Law Attorney at Iowa State University, USA, are coordinating the research.
They replicated a list of copyright questions derived from the International FARMTRANSFERS Survey in 12 countries and 8 states in the USA and completed by almost 17,000 farmers throughout the world to date.
In Ireland, the FARMTRANSFERS Survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of farmers included in Teagasc’s Land Use/Mobility Farm Survey.
The Beginning Farmer Centre at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach obtained state-wide data from Iowa.
Combining FARMTRANSFERS datasets from across continents and cultures provided a unique international perspective of the farming population towards intergenerational farm transfer across a broad spectrum of;
- Farming operations;
- Geographical location;
- Scale (i.e. the average farm size in Ireland is 32.4 hectares, compared to 145.3 hectares in Iowa).
Findings from this NUI Galway Illuminate Programme-funded study reveal the international scope and complexity of farm retirement.
Only 25% of Irish farmers and 23% of farmers in Iowa indicated that they fully intend on doing so in the future.
Such findings, they say, provide an explanation for the widely reported ‘greying’ of the farming workforce.
In the Republic of Ireland, for example, almost one-third of all farmers are older than 65 (CSO, 2018).
Meanwhile, the most recent Census of Agriculture in the US in 2017 found that 34% of farmers are 65 and older (USDA, 2019).
The spokesperson said:
“The older generation’s reluctance to ‘step aside’ results in intractable challenges for younger farmers who want to establish a career in farming.”
“However, and under such conditions, it could take 20 to 30 years for them to integrate and evolve into a more formidable role in the family farm business.”
Prince Charles Syndrome
Dr Conway said:
“Such a long period of family apprenticeship is analogous to that of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.”
“His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is still in control. By the time Prince Charles succeeds to the throne, his own son will be ready to assume the role, and somewhat ironically, his son, Prince William, may also find himself spending most of his adult life as an apprentice in the family business.
“Ironically, 25 years after Keating (ibid) first used this novel way to describe the succession situation on many family farms, Prince Charles is still in the same situation today (in 2022) as he was then.”
“This ‘Prince Charles Syndrome’ predicament also appears to be the case for many ‘younger’ farmers worldwide’.”