Land Mobility Scheme Northern Ireland

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What is The Land Mobility Scheme?

The Land Mobility Scheme is about helping to restructure our industry. It is about how we encourage young people into farming and how we bring new skills, new thinking and a new generation into agriculture. By matching people with opportunities and providing a service to facilitate workable arrangements.

The Land Mobility Scheme will also be a proactive support service for farmers and farm families who are considering expansion, changing enterprise, or stepping back from the family farm. The confidential service will allow people to explore their options and will help match farmers interested in long leases and collaborative arrangements such as partnerships, share farming or contract rearing with the next generation of younger farmers keen to progress a career in the industry.

This much needed initiative will match older farmers, with no succession arrangements in place, in touch with younger farmers and together they can then develop long term long-term operational and financial plans for the farms in question on an agreed basis.

The Land Mobility Scheme is a joint initiative between the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and is part funded by The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Our research to date, completed by Countryside Services has identified the need for a service for older farmers wishing to step back from the day to day running of their businesses to work with a younger farmer seeking to develop their careers in the industry. We believe this collaborative approach will benefit both parties involved in the agreement and its success as a concept, is already proving fruitful on a number of farms in Northern Ireland.

Advantages of Land Mobility, Partnerships & Share/Contract Farming

Some of the advantages of these arrangements are -

  • Improved economies of scale to increase profits & farm viability
  • Improved work/life balance/better social and family life
  • Improved work environment and reduced work load
  • Reduced stress through shared decisions & companionship
  • Improved farm safety
  • Reduced investment risk & better decision making
  • More efficient use of fixed costs
  • Improved use of skills, training & new ideas
  • Wealth of experience & knowledge built up over many years

There are clear advantages of options such as share farming arrangements but in Northern Ireland very few working examples. I suspect there are a number of reasons for this, including CAP reform and uncertainty associated with Basic Farm Payment (BFP) entitlements and some of this uncertainly may continue with Brexit and post EU agriculture support and what form this will take. A lack of information, awareness and support. Other barriers include our ‘conacre’ system. With one third of NI land area set in conacre which leaves it difficult to grow a farm business and plan for the future. Added to that that only 18% of our land is in its optimum level of fertility. There are concerns that moving away from conacre will create tax issues and these will need to be addressed.

The concept of agreements between farmers is relatively new here, but has huge potential to help young farmers into the industry and help older farmers who want to step back.

Share/Contract Farming can be as simple or as complex as you want, just so long as the terms are clear and agreed. Each party to the agreement remains as a separate business.

The types of arrangements available under this heading include

  1. Contract Rearing/Production

    A simple type arrangement while at the same time providing income certainty to the land owner and allows them to continue to farm. Allows an expanding operator to subcontract part of their operation. Examples of this are contract rearing dairy heifers or crop production.

  2. Share Farming

    This is where each party is still a farmer in their own right. It can spread the workload, decision making, the risk and reward. It can help a young farmer build up stock or machinery and equity in their farm business. This has worked well in other countries in different sector but especially in dairy farming. Other options can be share milking and cow leasing used as an entry into livestock without the very high start-up costs

    Share Milking represents an excellent start up opportunity for young skilled dairy farmers. There are many young people equipped with the skills to be excellent dairy farmers.

    Share Farming/Milking is a real option for

    • Dairy farm and herd managers
    • Those waiting to go home
    • Farmers for whom home offers insufficient scale or viability
    • Other family member/person on home farm

    The big mind-set challenge for anyone contemplating Share Farming is the move away from a known return (a weekly wage) or perceived control (not owning the land) to a true Risk Reward and Sharing scenario.

  3. Partnerships- Family & Non-Family

    This is very common in Northern Ireland were the farmer has identified a successor and the transition is managed naturally over a number of years with the successor taking on more of the management each year. This can work very well within families. it also works with non-family members too but is less common. In this scenario, the business stays as one.

  4. Long Term Leasing

    This can lead to stability and certainty and a significant improvement to the management of leased land. It makes planning for future growth in the business much easier. It makes the land user much more likely to invest in the land such as reseeding, liming, fencing and all round better land management.

It is important to note that within the broad headings there can be very many variations and agreements tailored to suit the individual requirements.

Our countryside management document can be downloaded here »