Auctioneers have roundly rejected proposals to cap the tax reliefs available on the long-term leasing of land.

They warned that interference in the market will have unintended consequences, could actually push up rental costs and reduce the volume of land for leasing.

A Fine Gael forum for agriculture, food and rural development proposed a new upper limit on the tax-free element of long-term leases.

Forum chair, Eddie Downey, said the limit should apply to the “payment per hectare that will be tax-free and not the number of hectares leased”.

Downey said the move would increase the area of land available at a “more reasonable price” and make it easier for young farmers to get access to ground.

However, auctioneers warned that any interference in the land-leasing market would be counter-productive.

“If the tax relief is reduced for landowners it will only drive up the price of land to the highest bidder to subsidise their [higher] taxes,” said Mitchelstown auctioneer Eamonn O’Brien.

He also questioned the need to support young farmers.

“There are young farmers out there with 300 cows who are outbidding older farmers with 45 cows and trying to get to 55 cows,” he pointed out.

Wicklow-based auctioneer David Quinn said any move to reduce the tax-relief on long-term leasing could encourage landowners to sell and actually reduce the area of ground available for rent. This would inevitably push up prices, he said.

Tom Crosse of GVM properties in Limerick said the market should be “left to its own devices”. Rental prices had fallen this year on the back of lower milk prices, he said.

Stephen Barry of Raymond Potterton Auctioneers in Meath said market interference by Government is “always dangerous and always has unintended consequences”.

“If you look at the influence of rent caps on the private residential landlord market and how these measures have all failed and most likely led to increased residential rents,” he pointed out.