Farming and food represent Ireland’s largest indigenous industry with a very significant economic contribution to the country. The Food Harvest 2020 Vision is to further enhance this contribution through efficient, environmentally sustainable production growth. Global food demand continues to grow while at the same time the two most basic resources for food production, land and water are in decline. It is critical that we make the best use of available land. It is in this context that new land use models and land mobility come into consideration.
Land mobility has always been an issue, only 6% of farmers are under 35 and 26% are over 65. This age imbalance is compounded by the fact that many older farmers do not have a farming successor. There have been numerous studies identifying the issues, these include
- Farming successor not identified
- Late transfer carrying from one generation to the next
- Uncertainty over available options and impact for CAP payments
- Desire for the land to be farmed but wanting to stay involved or keep family involvement
- Desire to enhance the farm for future generations but not able to do it themselves
- Security of income and property rights
- Lack of information and advice
Average farm size in Ireland is 32 Hectares, fragmentation is common, and the amount of land changing hands through sale or purchase each year is tiny. Collaborative arrangements can be the key to delivering Food Harvest 2020.