Land access problems in maintaining viable farms and in enabling expansion of farm businesses are outlined in a case study, published last week, undertaken on behalf of the National Rural Network (NRN).

The case study, ‘Achieving Greater Land Mobility’ was undertaken by agricultural consultant Dr Richard Hackett.

It contains a number of case studies of farmers on both sides of the land-leasing scheme and recommends a number of initiatives to enhance the level of land mobility.

The difficulties for young farmers in getting access to land are highlighted in cases studies of two farmers, in the north west and midlands.

The first farmers is farming 100ha, 55 owned and 45 rented. He has 50 suckler cows and 300 mountain ewes. He is operating 13 different land parcels. The 45ha of rented land is made up of five leases.

The second farmer took over the farm 12 years ago through the farm retirement scheme. It was just 11ha. He has built the fairy herd from 11 cows to 113.

All the additional 89ha he is now farming are rented. He has a total of eight leases, ranging from three to 20ha. He desperately needs land adjacent to the milking parlour but sees little prospects of getting it.

The experience of an older farmer who is a land lessor demonstrates why many land owners are reluctant to enter long-term leasing agreements.

He leased the farm of an 11-year period. While he was covered legally in the lease agreement, there were problems in receiving payment on time and the land was managed badly.

The farm was returned to him in a bad state – poor soil fertility, gates and fences broken and drains blocked.

The development of an information campaign focused on increasing awareness of the current and possible new incentives around land leasing is among the study’s recommendations.

It also recommends the use of a standard formal lease, such as the Irish Farmers Association Masterlease, and the establishment of a land mobility advisory service combined with the development of leasing management services by Teagasc and private consultants.

The report is available here.