Northern Ireland’s Land Mobility Scheme has been developed to accelerate the rate of generational change within local agriculture.
One of its specific remits is to ‘match up’ young people, keen to develop a career within production agriculture, with older land owners who are looking at the possibility of retiring, while still retaining their land asset.
One such partnership that has developed significantly over the past four years has been that forged between Cavan Johnston, who farms near Strangford in Co Down, and Matthew Adams, from Glarryford in Co Antrim.
The Johnston farm extends to 400 plus acres and is home to 220 autumn calving cows and followers.
The initial agreement established, courtesy of Land Mobility, centred on a profit-sharing arrangement involving the two men.
However, this has now evolved into a long-term lease agreement with Matthew having bought out the existing stock within the business.
“Cavan had always made it clear that there was a long-term future for me on the farm and we get on very well together.
Buying the stock was one very obvious way of moving the entire project forward. However, the banks here would not lend me the money to make this happen. Having a long-term lease on the farm was the only collateral option that would unlock the capital I needed to buy the animals. And this is what Cavan has agreed to.”
But theory is one thing: putting it into practice is another with Cavan taking up up the story:
“I know that many land owners have a problem with the very principle of long-term leasing as opposed to simply letting land in conacre. Potentially exposing themselves to an inheritance tax liability could well be one of these concerns. I knew from the outset that such is not the case. But what Matthew and I hadn’t realised was just how complex the process to secure a final contract would be.
Our leasing agreement extends to almost 60 pages. Getting to that stage required the active involvement of solicitors and accountants, all of whom had to be paid. So the final costs involved were considerable.”
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Permanent Secretary, Katrina Godfrey was a recent visitor to the Johnston farm, where she met up with both Cavan and Matthew.
Also in attendance were representatives from the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU). The visit gave everyone in attendance an opportunity to take part in a discussion, reflecting on the impact made by the Land Mobility Scheme to date.
Peter Alexander, YFCU President commented,
“It was a pleasure to welcome Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary DAERA to join us on a tour of one of our land mobility farms. It was a fantastic opportunity to update the Permanent Secretary about the process and highlight any issues where we can work and collaborate together.”
DAERA along with other industry stakeholders provide funding to assist with the running costs of the Land Mobility Scheme and Katrina Godfrey was pleased to hear how this funding was having a positive impact on facilitating land mobility arrangements:
“I congratulate Cavan and Matthew on the progress they have made over the last number of years.
The current Land Mobility Scheme offers an excellent range of options, including long-term leasing and partnerships which can be tailored to the particular needs of the individual farm businesses interested in this service. I am delighted to say that to date 104 farm business arrangements have been achieved through the Land Mobility Scheme.
I have also been encouraged to hear how both Cavan and Matthew have overcome the challenges they have faced. It shows that these issues can be addressed in a proactive manner. We want to see the Land Mobility Scheme reach its full potential, seeking to identify the barriers that currently exist and identify solutions as to how they can best be overcome.”
YFCU also has a role in helping to ensure that mechanisms for land mobility are considered within DAERA’s Future Agricultural Policy. Land Mobility Scheme Manager, John McCallister represents YFCU at Generational Renewal Working Group meetings to share his knowledge and experience from delivery of the current Land Mobility Scheme.
Mr McCallister added:
“I am delighted that Land Mobility will be incorporated and embedded in the Generational Renewal scheme and that this key element of generational change will continue to be addressed effectively in the future.”
DAERA is a long-standing supporter of YFCU and recognises that its many members represent the future of the agri-food industry.
Looking to the future, Peter Alexander commented,
“It is extremely important to have both YFCU and rural youth views and opinions heard, especially on the issues which will impact our members education, growth, and their family’s rural businesses. I would like to thank DAERA for supporting our organisation and I am excited to see how the industry adapts and evolves over the years to come.”
(left to right) Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster CEO, Gillian McKeown, Cavan Johnston, Matthew Adams, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Permanent Secretary, Katrina Godfrey, Rebecca Kennedy and Land Mobility Manager, John McCallister at Johnston Farm.(left to right) Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster CEO, Gillian McKeown, Cavan Johnston, Matthew Adams, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Permanent Secretary, Katrina Godfrey, Rebecca Kennedy and Land Mobility Manager, John McCallister at Johnston Farm.