Thursday, 7 March 2013

Questions (210)

Michael Creed


210. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the incentives available from the State to encourage the early transfer of land to young qualified farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12125/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Recent analysis shows that there are more farmers over 80 than under 35 in Ireland. I have been working to encourage more new entrants to take up farming as a career. Budget 2013 saw the extension of key reliefs that were already in place for young new entrants (such as the 100% relief from Stamp Duty and the 100% stock relief for Young Trained Farmers). These provide an incentive both for early inter-generational farm transfer and also encourage young qualified farmers to expand their enterprise. 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 earlier 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 have introduced new courses to cater for a variety of needs. For example, last year Teagasc has launched a new Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management (Level 7) in association with University College Dublin (UCD). Teagasc have also developed a new Level 6 Specific Purpose Certificate in Farm Administration course to help meet the training requirements for full-time or part-time farmers.

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 farm restructuring CGT relief has been announced in the 2013 budget, subject to EU State Aid approval. This is the result of detailed work which analysed the reasons why the old stamp duty 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 ’. 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 both retained and introduced will encourage more young people into farming and address the age profile imbalance in Irish farming.