Irish farmers have passed an important landmark, with client data from the Department of Agriculture suggesting that Ireland now has more farmers under the age of 35 than over the age of 80.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said, “While this represents progress, there is obviously a lot more to be done.
“Many farmers don’t want to retire fully, and I understand and respect that wish.
“What we need is arrangements that work for both the older farmer and the new generation.”
He said more young people are taking over farms, whether through family transfers, family and non-family partnership arrangements, and other collaborative arrangements.
He attributed this trend to government support and encouragement for collaborative farming arrangements, both family and non-family, including formal farm partnerships.
Tax changes over the last three budgets had provided supports to encourage early farm transfer, long term leasing and partnership arrangements.
Concessions for agricultural assets now allow the family farm to be transferred on to the younger generation without any tax liability arising in almost all cases.
Generous incentives apply to long-term farmland lease, making it preferable to conacre (11 month), allowing for proper planning and investment in relation to leased land.
Mr Creed also said the Succession Farm Partnership scheme will promote earlier inter-generational transfer of family farms, encouraging and supporting important conversations within farm families about succession planning.
This dcheme provides for a €25,000 tax credit over five years to assist with the transfers of farms within a partnership structure.
It will be launched shortly.
Administrative barriers to putting farms in the joint names of husband and wife had also been addressed.
Mr Creed was responding in the Dáil to Cavan-Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth.
Much of the nearly 20% of Ireland’s milk which goes into cheddar cheese for the UK market could be switched to pizza cheese, if Brexit turns sour for the dairy industry.
Ireland supplies about a third of the UK’s cheddar, about 80,000 tonnes per year.
With no guarantees that Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU will go well, the Irish food industry has to prepare for the possibility of a “hard Brexit”, which could mean a tariff of €167 per 100kg on Irish cheddar cheese exports to the UK.
Converting to mozzarella cheese production, and aiming for the huge pizza cheese market, is an obvious alternative for utilisation of the 1bn litres of milk from Irish farms per year which goes for cheese.
Already, companies such as Glanbia are producing significant amounts of mozzarella cheese at their factories in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Unless the UK agrees low or zero tariffs on agricultural products with the EU, Irish milk processors will have to switch to dairy products likely to sell better elsewhere — or perhaps relocate factories to the UK in order to continue their success in that market.
Bord Bia officials met with the European Commission’s Brexit negotiating team (the Article 50 Task Force) last week, and were advised that European food and drinks companies should prepare for a worst-case Brexit scenario, with no transition period.
Bord Bia says this will require each company actively reviewing and relearning its own core business and operations, as well as their customers’ needs.
The food board uses its Brexit Barometer to outline an individual company’s exposure to key risks associated with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin has said the current LEADER rural development programme has fallen €1.4m behind its predecessor, in grant payments for approved projects.
She blamed the introduction of totally unnecessary bureaucracy. Examples include LEADER procurement guidelines which exceed national procurement guidelines.
“The fact that there are six parties in three different locations involved in bringing each project to approval stage, and the refusal to allow simplified cost options for smaller projects, are indicative of the excessive bureaucracy involved,” she said.