Macra president Elaine Houlihan has said the young farmers’ organisation is disappointed with what she described as “handwashing” by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue on additional funding the Land Mobility Service.

The service, which matches young potential farmers with landowners who wish to retire or step back, received €100,000 in funding from Minister McConalogue’s budget for 2023.

The Minister indicated that the Land Mobility service should be seeking European Innovation Partnership funding, instead of relying on Department of Agriculture funding.

However Houlihan pointed to a €300,000 investment by the Dutch government in the first year of a similar scheme there.

“In Ireland with such a need to facilitate land transfer, it is disappointing to see a degree of hand washing by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine with our own Land Mobility Service,” she said.

Minister McConalogue was speaking at Macra’s annual agricultural conference, where he reiterated his commitment to young farmers and female farmers.

Questions from the floor ranged from the draining of rivers to knowledge transfer.

Generational renewal

Macra’s chair of agricultural affairs, Liam Hanrahan, asked a question in relation to generational renewal and succession.

The Minister responded by outlining the high level of CAP funding available, but added that it was a Governmental priority, that the Government should be investing on making farms as efficient as possible rather than paying people to leave the sector.

Commenting, Houlihan said: “It is disappointing that the Government took such a binary view on generational renewal. With one third of farmers over the age of 65, it is hard to understand how the Government can turn a blind eye to the aging profile of our farmers and expect the changes that we all know are required.”

Relying on an inheritance model will not result in meaningful change to the number of young active farmers entering farming

She added: “We need a paradigm shift to our current model of thinking to achieve generational renewal, relying on an inheritance model will not result in meaningful change to the number of young active farmers entering farming.

“Switching to a succession model which Macra is proposing, focuses on getting young active farmers involved in viable farm businesses in the right place and at the right time.”

Macra previously proposed a pilot succession scheme, which would see 1,000 farmers paid to retire by Government and awarded a weekly sum of €484. This, coupled with the State pension, would see a retired participant farmer take home in excess of €700/week, or €36,000/year.

However there was no funding allocated for such a scheme in the recent Budget 2024.

Forgotten Farmers

Minister McConalogue assured the farmers at the Macra conference that the so-called forgotten farmers who missed out on CAP payments had not been forgotten again. A one-off payment had been mooted for such farmers in recent years.

Houlihan, however, pointed out that the case has been running on and on for several years with no resolution.

Young farmer schemes