Farmers upbeat at seminar and not just because they got paid

On Friday, Oct 19, thousands of farmers received the first tranche of their single farm payment — aptly, that night there was a ‘your farm, your business’ seminar in Carrigaline, Co Cork.

The message was one of optimism. Two months earlier that message would have led to a lynching.

At the seminar, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney discussed his battle to get a good result for Ireland in the CAP reform discussions. “Tough negotiations lie ahead,” he said.

Previous meetings of farmers were angered by the minister’s CAP talks, but it was calm in Carrigaline.

Perhaps after a day of receiving cheques, nobody wanted to be too hard on the top man.

Michael Brady (Brady Group Agricultural Consultants and Land Agents) outlined six financial issues that will impact farming in the next 10 years — CAP reform, enterprise profitability and expansion, finance, volatility in prices, tax, and farm advice.

Intent on sending farmers home with positive thoughts, Michael played a video of American farmers promoting their healthy produce, and encouraged Irish farmers to be more upbeat about their business.

“Something struck me last week about Irish farming,” he said.

“When I saw 20,000 farmers marching in Dublin, they were shouting and giving out. The thing that hit me is, I think, farmers in this county are brilliant, they do a very good job and produce superb food.

“But I feel we don’t boast about ourselves enough.

“We don’t tell people how good we are, we are often only fighting amongst each other.

“I feel it’s important to tell people what a very good job farmers are doing.”

A ‘very good job’ farmers see as individualistic, about setting one’s own course and steering one’s own ship.

This is fantasy farming.

In the real world, a farmer will need all the help and guidance he, or she, can get.

And I’m not referring merely to agricultural contractors, but to the help we need with the legal, financial and taxation issues.

No wonder there was a full house for the seminar: there to hear from the experts, like tax expert Michael Mullins, a partner with Moore Stephens Nathan.

Perhaps the most important lesson we learned was that when it comes to the technicalities of taxation, most of us farmers don’t have a clue.

Aware that too much jargon might cause our brains to overheat, Michael explained the difference between company and personal taxation, with a handful of hard cash taken from his pocket.

Producing €20 and €10 notes and a bundle of change, he did his version of the three-card trick, which went down well; by the end of his talk, we all understood the difference between company and personal taxation.

For most of us in farming, a visit to a solicitor’s office is something we cannot avoid.

But Ronan Enright (Michael Enright and Co Solicitors) explained why it might be important to keep up with the ever-changing laws of the land.

From Jan 1 next, a solicitor will be prohibited from representing both sides in, for example, the transfer of a family farm from one family member to the other.

“Most of you will probably have a traditional family solicitor that might act for you and numerous relatives,” said Ronan

“That was certainly a very common practice in Ireland, particularly, let’s say, where parents were transferring a site to a son or daughter, it would be common for parents to have the one solicitor and for the same solicitor to act for the son or daughter who would be obtaining the site.

“There were unfortunate examples where, maybe, somebody was acting under duress, or someone was putting undue influence on an elderly relative.

“There were situations of abuse.

“So the Law Society recommended a total prohibition on solicitors acting on both sides of a property transaction.

“It will remove a major conflict of interest for the solicitor, and it will allow everyone, from the very beginning, to get impartial, independent advice.

“It’s important when considering the transfer to talk to all your farm advisers.

“Talk to your solicitor, talk to your accountant, talk to your farm adviser.

“Talk to people you trust, maybe years in advance, to tease out a plan.”

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