Costs, weather and succession planning among top concerns for farmers, survey finds

One-third of farming families unsure of having sufficient working capital to survive first half of 2024

Shifting weather patterns, still-volatile input costs and questions around succession planning are among the issues troubling farmers going into 2024, a new survey has indicated, with one in three worried about whether they have enough capital to survive the first half of the year.

The research, based on an Irish Farm Accounts Co-operative Society (Ifac) survey of more than 1,000 farmers across the State, found that some 48 per cent of respondent families did not have a successor identified.

While this is an improvement on last year – the first move in that direction in years, Ifac said – it remains a “major stumbling block” for farming families.

An overwhelming 94 per cent said they face significant barriers to succession planning. One in four said the viability of their farm is their chief concern when it comes to naming a successor while 15 per cent said the next generation have no interest in taking over the family operation.


“There can be various reasons why a successor is not yet identified, ranging from reluctance on the part of a farmer who is not ready to give up their livelihood to delayed decision-making or having a successor being too young to take over,” said Marty Murphy, head of tax at Ifac. “Sometimes it may not be possible to identify a willing successor in the immediate family.”

Financial viability, meanwhile, remains the foremost concern for farmers at the start of the year amid uncertainty around input costs.

Two-thirds of respondents said the price of feed, fertiliser and other inputs are their top concern at the start of the year with one in three farming families concerned as to whether they have sufficient working capital on hand for the first six months of the year.

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Published on Tuesday, the Central Statistics Office’s latest agricultural input and output price indices, which monitor trends in prices paid to farmers for their produce and in prices paid by farmers for purchases of goods and services, fell by 15.7 per cent and 16.3 per cent in the 12 months to the end of November.

It means that while costs have softened somewhat from the highs observed in 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so to have the prices farmers are commanding for their produce.

Introduced this year, the reduced nitrogen limits for dairy farmers are likely to have “far-reaching income effects for Irish farmers”, said Ifac chief executive John Donoghue. “Regardless of the route they take, these farmers need to assess their circumstances and develop a plan that will help them to achieve the environmental objectives and their business objectives.”

Meanwhile, more than half of respondents said adverse weather is now a significant concern, an increase of 28 percentage points from 2023, with the tillage sector most worried after the warmest two years on record in the Republic.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times