Traditionally, farmers have been quite hesitant when it comes to making a will, and this has major consequences in terms of succession planning their businesses.
This was a key message delivered by Gabrielle McArdle, from Kavanagh Kelly Accountancy, when she spoke at a farm succession seminar that was hosted by the beef and sheep processer Dunbia on the first day of the Balmoral Show.
“Thankfully, this situation is changing,” she said.
“But more must be done to encourage farm families to openly discuss how succession can be managed in the most open and transparent manner.”
The recently launched ‘Land Mobility’ programme, co-ordinated by the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YCFU), was highlighted as an important vehicle to help drive forward the challenge of succession on local farms.
Project manager John McCallister confirmed that 48% of farmers aged 50 had not identified a successor for their business.
“The average age of a farmer in Northern Ireland is currently 58 years,” he said.
“The age profile of the industry is far too old. And this state of affairs must be changed if the industry is to progress.”
He added: “Young people must be given an opportunity to secure a sustainable future within agriculture. And the Land Mobility programme can play a key role in this regard.”
The new service acts to partner older landowners with young people, committed to a future in farming.
“At its heart is a recognition of the need to encourage longer term land leasing arrangements,” Mr McCallister explained.
“This can take many forms, the development of farm partnerships being one.”
Mr McCallister said that tax changes introduced in the Republic of Ireland a couple of years ago had acted to encourage the forging of longer term land leasing arrangements in that part of the world.
“It would be very pertinent for the Inland Revenue to take a similar approach on this matter here in Northern Ireland. I am aware that both the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and the Ulster Farmers’ Union are actively lobbying on this matter at the present time,” he said.
“I currently have 160 people on my data base. This is split 50:50 between those wishing to lease land and younger people wanting to develop a sustainable career within agriculture. This is a very encouraging base from which to work during the period ahead.”