The launch of the Land Mobility Service will help bring new blood into farming

The recent launch of the Land Mobility Programme is to be warmly welcomed. The programme will help encourage and facilitate the entry of younger people into local agriculture.

Aodh McGrath and Glenn Welby, of Welby Associates
Aodh McGrath and Glenn Welby, of Welby Associates

Currently, the average age of a farmer in Northern Ireland is 58 years. This means that we have more than a significant number of producers, who are creeping up to or are beyond the official retirement age. This scenario is not sustainable for the future.

We congratulate both the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and the Ulster Farmers’ Union for championing the land mobility project.

The initial prospects are more than encouraging. John McCallister, the manager of the new programme, is already reporting 100’s of enquiries from both the older landowners and the younger people wanting to gain a foothold in the industry. Let’s hope he can build on all of this for the future.

Importantly the Land Mobility Programme will help farm families the length and breadth of Northern Ireland address the thorny matter of succession. This issue really is the ‘elephant in the room’ as farm businesses strive to work out a future path to sustainability.

Land Mobility brings a totally new dynamic to the succession debate. In essence, it provides older farmers and landowners with a retirement option that allows them to maintain their land in optimal condition. However, at the same time, it keeps all of their inheritance options intact.

From a practical point of view, land mobility will entail the formation of longer-term land letting and farm business models. These include leasing - as opposed to conacre – arrangements, share farming agreements and the formation of partnerships.

All of these options will require the landowner to proactively engage with the other members of his or her family. And this is extremely positive.

Land Mobility agreements will also provide an opportunity for the landowners involved to look at new financial arrangements that ensure the continuation of the new business model that has been formed, in the event of a premature death, while fully ensuring the rights and expectations of other family members.

However, with the use of carefully crafted wills and trusts along with the whole of life assurance, we have found that usually all beneficiaries of Succession can be accommodated.

The use of discretionary trusts can allow someone to farm for their lifetime as well as protecting the asset for up to 80 years in Northern Ireland.

Getting the right financial advice is so important, where all of these matters are concerned. At Welby Associates, we specialise in advising the farming community on a wide range of financial issues. We are here to listen and provide solutions.

To talk about this article or if we can help you in any way, please call the office on 02892 622910 or alternatively you can email [email protected]