Overcoming the farming community’s stalwart persistence in their adherence to traditional succession and retirement practices, which effectively obstruct the transfer of farmland from one generation to the next, is a pressing matter for contemporary generational renewal in agriculture policy.
A new paper comparing International FARMTRANSFERS data from Ireland and the state of Iowa, U.S.A. by the NRN team in the Rural Studies Centre at NUI Galway, Dr Shane Conway and Dr Maura Farrell on this issue entitled ‘Farm Succession and Retirement across Continents and Cultures: A Focus on Ireland and Iowa’ has been published in a recent edition of the Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University’s Agricultural Policy Review.
Combining FARMTRANSFERS datasets from Ireland and Iowa in the U.S.A. provided a unique international perspective of the farming population towards intergenerational farm transfer, across a broad spectrum of cultures, farming operations, typologies, geographical location, and scale (i.e. the average farm size in Ireland is 32.4 hectares, compared to 145.3 hectares in Iowa). This study found that farmer’s reluctance and indeed resistance to ‘step aside’ and retire from farming, is not confined to one country but has a global dimension with only 25% of Irish farmers and 23% of farmers in Iowa indicating that they fully intend on retiring. Such findings suggest that the older farmer’s sense of place and purpose attached to the family farm supersedes economic imperatives stimulating the transfer of the family farm to the next generation.
There is an urgent need therefore for policy to re-examine its existing predominant focus on addressing needs and requirements of the younger farming generation, and place a greater or equal emphasis on maintaining the quality of life of those most affected by the intergenerational farm transfer process, namely the older farmer in order to help stimulate generational renewal in agriculture.
You can read the full study funded by the NUI Galway Illuminate Programme here.