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- PublicationFactors influencing Irish farmers’ afforestation intentionsThe natural conditions in Ireland have a positive influence on tree growth as the mean annual increment is twice as high as that in mainland Europe. However, due to centuries of resource exploitation and the expansion of agricultural land the isl¬¬and’s has the second lowest forest cover in the EU. An increased forest cover would encourage the establishment of a range of processing industries and thus support necessary economic development in rural areas. Furthermore through farm afforestation farmers are given the opportunity to diversify their businesses, as market output of the majority of cattle and sheep farms in Ireland often does not cover the production cost. To increase the forest cover, the government in the 1990s introduced a scheme supporting farm afforestation, which is encouraged through premium payments that are high enough to make forestry more profitable than the majority of drystock farming. Afforestation targets, however, have not been met and previous studies have failed to offer a consistent explanation for the shortfall in planting rates. Thus, the objective of this work was to identify the factors influencing farmers’ afforestation decision. More specifically the study aimed at identifying the combined effect of structural, socio-demographic and attitudinal factors on the probability to plant. Based on previous findings from in-depth interviews with Irish farmers’ about their goals and values regarding farming and afforestation, a postal survey was conducted in Spring 2012 including question on farm structure and socio-demographic variables as well as questions on reasons for planting/not planting. The data was analysed using logistic regression. The developed logit model showed that while profit goals did not significantly influence the decision-making with regard to farm afforestation, structural as well as attitudinal factors played a vital role in this process. This was identified as one reason as to why the current incentive scheme failed to deliver the outlined afforestation targets. Other policy tools are needed in addition to the incentives to further encourage afforestation.
670Scopus© Citations 30
- PublicationTo plant or not to plant – Irish farmers’ goals and values with regards to afforestationTo encourage Irish farmers to transfer land into forestry, a premium scheme supporting farmers who afforest was implemented in 1989 and afforestation targets outlined in 1996. In the period from 1996 to 2006, however, only half of the targeted area was planted in Ireland. As the income of many farmers would improve when joining the scheme, a number of studies have been conducted to find out why the response was not as expected. However, to date the phenomenon has not been explained. Amongst the studies undertaken, a lack of qualitative approaches looking at farmers’ decision-making was identified. In order to understand farmers’ decisions regarding farm afforestation, in-depth interviews with 62 farmers in the North-West and Mid-Western regions of Ireland were conducted in Winter and Spring 2011. The interviews were based on the theory of farmers’ goals and values developed by Ruth Gasson in 1973 (Gasson, 1973) and relate specifically to their instrumental, intrinsic, social and expressive values about farming. The results of this study show that farmers exhibit complex, multiple and sometimes contradictory values in relation to farming. The biggest group in the study were guided by intrinsic values when it comes to farm afforestation. Their decision not to plant is made based on their values and beliefs about farming, e.g. that it is a shame to plant land used for food production, even though this returns low or no profits. A much smaller group were directed by profit maximisation when it comes to afforesting land. These farmers would plant if the financial incentives around forestry were more attractive, i.e. the premiums of the scheme higher or the outlook for agricultural profits not as good as they anticipated them to be.
674Scopus© Citations 55
- PublicationAssessing alternative policy tools for encouraging farm afforestation in IrelandTo encourage Irish farmers to afforest agricultural land, a premium scheme supporting such planting was implemented in 1989 and afforestation targets outlined in 1996. In the period from 1996 to 2009, however, only half of the targeted area was planted although the income of many farmers would have improved on joining the scheme. A multi-method study was undertaken looking at farmers' decision-making with regard to afforestation under the scheme. In this paper we focus on one particular element of the study, which is about identifying policy tools that best match farmers' behaviour with regard to afforestation. Based on previous work, which we undertook on farmers' goals and values with regard to afforestation and which was presented in this journal, a postal survey was designed and distributed in spring 2012 to farmers all over Ireland. The results indicate that the majority of those surveyed do not make their decision to afforest based on profit maximisation goals. Offering only an incentive tool - such as the current premium scheme - will not be sufficient to encourage those farmers to plant trees. Additionally capacity tools such as group plantings of neighbouring fields and symbolic tools such as information and PR- or image-building campaign should be deployed to further encourage afforestation by farmers.
517Scopus© Citations 59
- PublicationRetirement farming or sustainable growth – land transfer choices for farmers without a successorIreland’s agriculture is characterised by an ageing farmer population and small average farm sizes. These structural issues are shared by a number of European countries and have been identified as barriers to sustainable growth in the sector. While farms with an identified successor usually enter a path of expansion and growth, farms without a successor at some point follow a route of winding down and extensification. Such retirement farming could potentially become an issue for food security and sustainable land use. Understanding the retirement decisions of farmers without a successor is key to address this issue. To this end a survey was conducted with Irish farmers including questions surrounding succession and retirement. About half of the surveyed farmers did not have a successor and two thirds of those did not intend to fully retire from active farming in the future. A logistic regression analysis of the collected data showed that placing a high value on family tradition in farming and only receiving a state pension had a negative effect on the intention to retire, while being aware of changing pension ages had a positive effect. A follow up qualitative study explored the perceptions of farmers without a successor regarding various land transfer options. The participants mainly anticipated negative consequences arising from selling the farm and full retirement such as the loss of land and the end of the farming activity. Other options such as the long-term leasing of part of the land or entering into a partnership with a younger farmer were regarded as having more positive consequences. These included a lowering of the workload, allowing a continuing involvement in farm work, and the ability to be able to stay on the farm.
691Scopus© Citations 48
- PublicationThe Field: Land mobility measures as seen through the eyes of Irish farmersIrelands agriculture is characterised by an ageing farmer population and small average farm sizes. Past policy schemes developed to address these issues have been targeted at accelerating succession and retirement processes in agriculture. Their success however was limited. The process of succession, inheritance and retirement is complex and the decision-making of farm families in these situations is influenced by many factors. In order to develop more successful policies to encourage the early transfer of land and to increase farm sizes a better understanding of these factors is necessary. The paper addresses this question by employing a Neural Network Analysis with data collected through a survey of Irish farmers perception on succession and land mobility measures in 2012. The analysis shows that while many farmers in general are in favour of various land mobility measures, they would not consider taking advantage of any of them, which in part could be explained by a large number of farmers being unwilling to totally retire from farming.