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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 7 Nov 2002

Vol. 556 No. 5

Written Answers. - Farming Industry.

John Perry


15 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his policies to encourage young farmers to enter into and remain in the profession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20684/02]

Brian O'Shea


76 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the content of a recent Teagasc report which showed an increase in the number of young people planning a career in agriculture; the measures his Department takes to promote agriculture as a career; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20826/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 76 together.

I welcome the recent announcement by Teagasc that the number of students participating in third level vocational courses in agricultural and horticultural colleges has increased by almost 10% this year. The upgrading of courses to third level status is clearly proving attractive to young people interested in careers in agriculture and horticulture. That participants can progress from these certificate and diploma courses to university degree level is a significant factor in the big increase in student numbers.

My Department operates a number of specific measures to promote agriculture as a career. Tax incentives include 100% stock relief for young trained farmers for four years after transfer, 100% stamp duty relief on transfers of agricultural land and buildings to young trained farmers, 90% agricultural relief on capital acquisitions tax, income tax exemptions for land leased by farmers over 55 to non-connected persons and retirement relief on capital gains tax for farmers over 55. The principal non-tax relief measures in place are the installation aid scheme, which was established pursuant to the national development plan, and the early retirement scheme. A grant of €9,523 is available to young farmers under 35 years of age who became established in farming for the first time on or after 1 January 2000 under the installation aid scheme. In addition, top-up grants are also available to young farmers under both the dairy hygiene scheme and the farm waste management scheme. Under the early retirement scheme, older farmers are encouraged to retire early from farming in order to qualify for a pension which is jointly funded by the EU and the Exchequer, thereby encouraging their replacement by younger farmers able to improve, where necessary, the economic viability of agricultural holdings.

The milk quota restructuring schemes have become the principal means by which producers can increase their milk quotas since the introduction of EU milk quota regulations in 2000. Accordingly, I have been able to prioritise the distribution of available quota and young producers, especially those with small quotas, have been a high priority. These schemes include a number of special concessions to younger farmers. The first is the priority allocation to new entrants of a minimum allocation of 50,000 litres. The second is the continuing priority of recent entrants, up to the age of 35, to acquire quota up to the limit of the first category, 180,000 litres. Priority to purchase available quota has also been afforded to successors of producers, who had to sell their quotas in recent years into restructuring schemes.
The share of the pool to be allocated to the priority category of new and recent entrants was increased to give further assistance to the younger producers in this year's milk quota restructuring scheme. It rose from 20% to 25% of the pool available after the allocation to the two highest priority groups: successors to producers who had to sell into restructuring in the past and those who lost quota due to changes in the milk quota regime. In addition to the ongoing priority in the restructuring schemes, I also afforded particular importance to young producers in deciding on the allocation of the additional quota that I secured for Ireland as part of the Agenda 2000 agreement. During 2000 and 2001, I allocated 45 million litres of free quota, that is almost one third of the total additional quota available, to approximately 3,500 young trained dairy producers.
In March of this year, I introduced regulations allowing for the registration of milk production partnerships, which will provide opportunities for improving the efficiency of dairy operations and will allow for a better mix between work and family life, thereby increasing the attractiveness of dairying to younger farmers. I will shortly finalise details of a pilot scheme to allocate milk quotas to farm managers, the objective being to enhance the attractiveness of a career in farm management for those with appropriate skills and experience.