While 71% said they planned to pass on the farm to a son or daughter, 13% did not know and 4% said they would be selling up. Another 10% said they would leave it to an extended family member and 1% would leave the land with a non-family member.
One solicitor, whose firm has been involved in Teagasc clinics on the issue of farm succession, said one problem was farmers waiting until later in life to decide on who takes over, rather than a much longer lead-in period.
Rossa McMahon of Co Limerick-based PG McMahon solicitors said he was surprised only 4% were considering selling their farm, adding: “What surprises me about those figures is that the ‘don’t know’ [figure] is only 13% — I would have thought it would be higher and I think in reality it is.
“Of the 71% who say they will pass it on to one of their children, I would imagine for a lot of them its what they want to do, but whether it’s possible is the issue.”
ICMSA president John Comer said: “It’s a natural sentiment to want to leave the farm to a child or member of the extended family. In most cases, farms would be in family for several generations and farmers do feel compelled in some sense to keep that going. There is a strong sense that you are bound to pass it on at least as good as you got it and better — if possible.
“The problem is that children looks at the levels of effort and work involved for the return and judge — not unsurprisingly — that it might not be worth it.
“We have to convince the next generation that there’s a living and a future in farming and that is a challenge for every level of the sector — not just the farm families themselves.”
Rossa McMahon said planning was essential for a clear succession strategy, but many farmers do not engage with the issue until later in life. “A lot of people leave it until they are close to retirement age without ever having a proper discussion and it’s causing a lot of problems now because a lot of children don’t want to get into farming or do not see it as an attractive career.”
He said the volatility of agricultural prices in recent years might have scared some prospective new entrants into farming, and the idea that certain tax reliefs were going to be abolished also meant some people rushed to complete a transfer when they would have been better to wait and consider their options.