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Abstract

Land mobility is becoming an increasingly important issue for European agriculture given the so-called ‘‘greying’’ of the farming population. This is especially the case in Ireland where meeting current and future policy goals will pose challenges to current agricultural land use and land structures. One of the most important of these policy goals is Food Harvest 2020 (FH2020), which envisages an increase in dairy milk volume of 50% by the year 2020. In order to facilitate this expansion, changes in Irish agricultural land use and land structures may be required. Increased land mobility may be required to reach the FH2020 target. Currently, Ireland has the lowest rate of agricultural land rental in Europe and less than 1% of farmland is transferred by sale or inheritance annually. Although efforts have been made by policy makers to improve rates of land mobility, little improvement has occurred. Given the current land structures, our analysis concludes that dairy farmers will require more land than is currently available to meet FH2020 targets. This extra land may come from non-dairy farmers. Cattle farmers are seen as most likely to transfer to dairy farming in the future but structural and demographic issues may mean that a far smaller amount of switching between cattle and dairy systems will occur than is expected by policy makers. This may impinge upon future growth in the Irish agri-food industry. In order to achieve policy objectives, better incentives may have to be developed to encourage the mobility of land between farmers.

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