Supporting young farmers wishing to enter the agricultural sector or improve their farm holdings, is a key priority of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 (https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/ruralenvironment/ruraldevelopmentprogrammerdp2014-2020/). Throughout the EU, such measures aimed at stimulating generational renewal in agriculture are increasingly viewed as crucial to the survival, continuity and future prosperity of the agri-food industry, traditional family farm model and broader sustainability of rural society (https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/thematic-work/generational-renewal_en).

0ne of the key objectives of the National Rural Network is to promote innovative initiatives that can help people in the farming community and in rural areas to maximize the success of the objectives set out in the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. A recent Young Trained Farmer case study carried out with 28-year-old Leo Morrissey, from Garrafine, Ballymacward, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, is a key example of how the network communicates important opportunities and outputs in the RDP to relevant stakeholders.

Leo went through a successful farm transfer process with his parents and older brother John, upon obtaining a Level 6 Certificate in Agriculture (Green Cert) from Mountbellew Agricultural College, Co. Galway. His progression in farming over the past three years is an inspiring story, and one that can assist and encourage other young Irish farmers to actively engage with, and avail of the various schemes and supports available to them under the current Rural Development Programme.

Leo explains that ‘In January 2015, my parents, brother and I sat down around the kitchen table to discuss the future of the family farm. The first sentence that came out of my mouth that summed up my own feelings on the matter to my family was ‘When I am looking to retire or pass on my assets in time I will do whatever I want with them, so if you two want to sell up and do as you please that is fully up to yourselves and I don’t mind. Of course, I knew this would never happen, but I just wanted it made clear that I had no sense of entitlement, and this I felt made the entire process easier. The division of the farm was arranged to what was felt was the best going forward. My brother, John, had already obtained a Level 6 Certificate in Agriculture completed and I was on the process of doing my Level 5 and 6 Certificate in Agriculture part time. The announcement of the National Reserve was also a big help when doing the maths on the process and luckily both John and I qualified for this’.

Leo and his brother decided against availing of the Collaborative Farming Grant Scheme (Measure 16 of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014 -2020) to become a registered farm partnership mainly due to the age profile of their parents at the time of the transfer and also the fact that the farm’s finances were in good order from the outset in order for them to have separate farm entities. The collaborative farming grant scheme was introduced to encourage farmers, who are establishing farm partnerships, to adopt best practice by engaging the help of experts when drawing up the farm partnership agreement. The grant is aimed at covering part of the legal, advisory and financial services costs incurred in the drawing up of the Partnership Agreement.

Leo explains that ‘the exceptional foundation laid down by my parents assisted John and I greatly in establishing our own independent farm enterprises, indeed this also provided us with an additional injection of enthusiasm’. Leo also detailed the benefits of this particular grant for suitable candidates, ‘I think the Collaborative Framing Grant is a good option for the larger scale farmers, or farmers who are still relatively young and may have a successor eager to get involved in the family farm business. And of course, it may also be a necessity in some cases, especially if the older generation are still financially dependent on the farm’. Other benefits of forming a registered farm partnership include preferential stock relief as well as ensuring that the members of all registered partnerships are fully catered for in the implementation of CAP Schemes such as BPS, ANC, TAMS and GLAS. (https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/newfarmpartnershipregister/collaborativefarminggrantscheme/).

According to Dr Shane Conway, Researcher at NUI Galway and with the NRN, ‘collaborative farming arrangements such as farm partnership agreements have the potential to ‘tick all the boxes’ in relation to the ideal family farm transfer facilitation strategy as they enable young ambitious farmers become formal partners in the farm business, whilst also allowing for the older generation to remain actively engaged in farming, as their continued guidance and lifelong knowledge is invaluable to the future development of the farm’.

The next stage in the process involved Leo setting up his herd number in addition to having ongoing discussions with his agricultural advisor and the Department of Agriculture. Leo explained that ‘I then set about applying for a new herd number, purchasing stock to meet stock level requirements and also had discussions with my agricultural advisor regarding my Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). Overall the process was straightforward, with good legal advice and open-minded family members being critical to the smooth transition. I found my dealing with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to be informative and straightforward. All the department staff I spoke to were helpful and assisted greatly in my entry into farming as a ‘Young Trained Farmer’ under the Basic Payment Scheme National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme’.

Leo also took advantage of the grant-aid funding available to him under the TAMS II – Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme as he set about establishing his farm enterprise. Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) was launched under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 in May 2015 and is co-funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

(https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmerschemespayments/tams/youngfarmercapitalinvestmentscheme/).

The objective of the Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II is to provide young farmers with an incentive to upgrade their farm buildings and/or purchase equipment to increase the sustainability and efficiency of their farm holdings. It aims to do this by providing them with an increased level of support to meet the considerable capital costs associated with the establishment of their enterprises. This grant-aid will ultimately contribute to the improvement of individual farm incomes and the competitiveness of the agricultural sector as a whole.

Leo explains that ‘towards the end of 2015 when I first began farming independently I had zero stock of my own, no sheds or machinery and minimal fencing. I was lucky to have my land base however which is the hardest part for any new entrant into farming. When TAMS II was announced I applied under the Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme for around 4000 meters of sheep fencing along with associated gateways. I qualify for a 60% grant aid on this project and feel it is going to set a solid foundation for my enterprise going forward. I found the TAMS II application process straightforward, with documents regarding my farm and qualifications submitted online. I was also contacted by Department officials regarding a few queries but I’m glad to say I have the project started with no regrets and hope to be finished by Autumn 2018. Although it is a huge capital outlay, especially factoring in the fact I have had to purchase all stock from the outset, I still think after doing the maths and weighing up the benefits that it is an excellent opportunity seized’.

National Rural Network Young Trained Farmer Case Study in the Media

This NRN Young Trained Farmer case study has been featured in the following 7 leading local and regional newspapers throughout Ireland:

  1. Westmeath Independent
  2. Galway Advertiser
  3. Leitrim Observer
  4. Connacht Tribune
  5. Clare Champion
  6. Tuam Herald
  7. Roscommon Herald.

For more information on farm viability and competitiveness in rural Ireland, please join the National Rural Network for free on: www.nationalruralnetwork.ie and check out our daily updates on the NRN Facebook page and on our Twitter account.

The National Rural Network would like to thank Leo Morrissey for his invaluable contribution to this work. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the Westmeath Independent, Galway Advertiser, Leitrim Observer, Connacht Tribune, Clare Champion, Tuam Herald and Roscommon Herald for featuring this case study in their respective newspapers and on their websites. Their involvement has helped inspire young farmers throughout the country to actively engage with, and avail of the various schemes and supports available to them under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

If you are a Young Trained Farmer interested in being featured as a case study on the National Rural Network website and various social media pages, please email Dr Shane Conway, Postdoctoral Researcher with NUI Galway and the NRN for more details: shane.conway@nuigalway.ie.