Succession planning still a critical issue for farm families

President of UFU Barclay Bell
President of UFU Barclay Bell

The central importance of succession on family farms has been underlined in the results of a land mobility survey carried out by the Young Farmers Clubs’ of Ulster and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.

UFU president, Rathfriland man, Barclay Bell, said: “This does not come as a huge surprise but it does confirm that we are on the right track with our efforts to raise awareness about succession planning and a land mobility scheme that would link young farmers with older farmers seeking to retire.”

Almost half of farm businesses surveyed had not identified a farming successor and of those 61 per cent had not sought advice. But over half said they would be interested in a succession/inheritance planning advisory service.

YFCU president, Roberta Simmons, also from Rathfriland, said: “Access to land or land mobility has long been an issue for young farmers. The aim of the research was to get a better understanding of the thinking of those who had not yet identified a successor. That is the key to tackling the problem.”

Of the farmers surveyed, one in five who had identified a successor have planned for the transfer of the farm via a will. The YFCU president said delaying the transfer until death could discourage young farmers from investing fully in the farm. Our agricultural colleges are full to capacity, so it is clear many young people want a career in farming - but land mobility remains a barrier.

“This needs to be addressed with urgency. If not, the consequences will be far reaching,” Roberta Simmons added.

The UFU and YFCU are continuing to work to establish a land mobility scheme to link young farmers with older farmers keen to retire, but who have no succession plan.

The detail and possible funding arrangements are now being finalised.

This will also be raised with the DAERA minister.