Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Common Agricultural Policy and Young Farmers: Engagement with Macra na Feirme

Mr. John Keane:

I will deal with the problems that young farmers face and ask my colleague, Mr. Derrie Dillon, to outline the solution that we feel would help to resolve the issue.

As for what young farmers are traditionally identifying to us in terms of the barriers to access to credit, we have cases where young farmers have told us they have been refused access to credit up to nine times. A number of young farmers have told us that they have been refused access to credit up to ten times and were eventually successful. The issues they have clearly identified as barriers are as follows. First, the pillar banks will seek a proven track record in terms of repayment capacity. The second thing they seek is collateral or security. We find that young farmers, naturally enough as they are in the early stage of business, have limited collateral or security to put against a loan for investment in capital infrastructure, livestock, land purchase or whatever. There is a limited capacity and limited security that can be offered in terms of securing finance.

I will outline what young farmers have consistently told us in terms of access to credit. This follows on from what Mr. Fitzgerald said. Particularly in the last 12 to 18 months, there has been uncertainty regarding the value of product in terms of what will be achieved from it, as well as the future propositions for the sector in terms of meeting the climate targets and climate ambitions the sector hopes to achieve and which Mr. Fitzgerald has touched on. The feedback is that the security, certainty and confidence in the ability of a young person, who is, naturally enough, more exposed to fluctuations in the market given his or her position in it and who would find it difficult to meet that repayment capacity, is proving to be a challenge. That whole area of future certainty and of ensuring there is a value in a product and that the value will be received, as well as the budgeting based on that, is proving to be a challenge. If you look at the dairy side of things, there is processor uncertainty. In the beef sector, there is uncertainty around price and in particular around the whole emissions piece, how that will be calculated and the talk about what the national herd will look like in the future. Action 3.1 in the climate action plan refers to developing a sustainable herd as we move forward but there is no clarity or certainty yet around what that will look like. That does not provide an environment for certainty on which to base lending or to provide a solid business plan for a young farmer as he or she moves forward because there is no guarantee that the goalposts will not move. The Ag Climatise roadmap that we developed in 2019 has now been put in the parking lot and we are looking at developing something else in early 2022. We recognise that change is important and good but at the same time, you need a roadmap for young farmers.

My colleague, Mr. Dillon, will comment on the solution piece.