Thursday, 13 December 2012

Questions (22)

John Browne


22. Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he has taken to encourage land transfers to young farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55958/12]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Recent analysis shows that there are more farmers over 80 than under 35. The situation has been deteriorating for many years, both in Ireland and in the rest of Europe.

I have been working to encourage more young people to take up farming as a career. Budget 2013 saw the extension of key reliefs that were already in place for young farmers (such as the 100% relief from Stamp Duty and the 100% stock relief for Young Trained Farmers). Extending these reliefs is not straightforward given that there is a requirement for EU State Aid approval for such measures. The deputy will also be aware that changes were made to retirement relief in budget 2012 to encourage inter-generational land transfers.

I am delighted that the number of applicants for Teagasc courses has greatly increased the last two years. Teagasc has responded well to this demand and have introduced new courses to cater for a variety of needs. For example Teagasc has recently launched a new Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management (Level 7) in association with University College Dublin (UCD). Teagasc have also developed recently a new Level 6 Specific Purpose Certificate in Farm Administration course to help meet the training requirements for full-time or part-time farmers. In addition, They have also consulted with the banking sector to make sure that their students know how to prepare business plans and detailed cash-flow plans in support of credit applications.

Measures to provide targeted support to young farmers are part of the current negotiations on the reform of the CAP and will I hope form part of any final agreement. I have strongly supported the proposal for a top-up for young farmers under pillar 1 of the CAP, and indeed Ireland was one of the first countries to suggest this measure in the negotiations.

I am also happy that the new restructuring relief has been announced in the 2013 budget. This is the result of detailed work which analysed the reasons why the old consolidation relief was not working. I am confident that the new relief in relation to Capital Gains Taxes will be more effective, especially given that Stamp Duty rates have been reduced. Re-structuring is essential for us to meet the Food Harvest 2020 targets. We need to use land more productively and encourage more young farmers to make the best use of the land. A recent EU Commission study found that

younger[farm] managers tend to perform better than the EU average, with 46% more area and 57% more economic potential for 21% more labour force’ [[1] Commission Staff Working Paper, Impact Assessment, CAP towards 2020, Annex 1: Situation and prospects for EU agriculture and rural areas , p. 25. Brussels, 12/10/2011.1]

Ireland has a very low level of land sales, with most land staying within the same family for generations. Only 0.4% of land changes hand in any given year. Young farmers that want to expand need to be able to access land. According to the latest census of agriculture the average farm has 3.8 land parcels. This means that our farmers are wasting time and diesel driving between plots of land, increasing the stress and the risk of accidents. Young farmers will now have an opportunity to consolidate their holdings and increase efficiency.

I am hopeful therefore that the measures that I have introduced will encourage more young people into farming and address the age profile imbalance in Irish farming.