Farm income divide is laid bare by Revenue
Earnings up to 70pc lower in the west than Leinster and Munster
Average farm incomes in Connacht are up to 70pc less than farm earnings in Leinster and east Munster, according to new figures from the Revenue Commissioners.
Revenue returns for 2014, made in October 2015, show that farmers in Waterford had the most profitable year, with average incomes of €38,115, but farmers in Leitrim generated the lowest average income of just €10,823.
Farmers in Tipperary, Kilkenny, Kildare and Carlow accumulated average earnings of €33,000.
The average earnings for farmers in Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon and Mayo was an estimated €12,000.
In the Midlands, Laois farmers earned an estimated average of €26,408; Offaly farmers earned around €23,497, while those in Westmeath generated almost €22,000.
Confirmation of the regional divide in farm earnings comes as a major overhaul of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) payment scheme has been ordered.
The EU Commission has instructed the Department of Agriculture to compile a revised list of ANCs (formerly disadvantaged areas) by June next year.
Some farmers who have been availing of the scheme for up to four decades could lose out on an annual payment of around €2,300. However, farmers in previously excluded areas may now qualify.
Under the proposed system, socio-economic factors will determine whether a region qualifies as disadvantaged. However, such appraisals will be based on physical factors such as land quality, rainfall levels, drainage and the natural terrain.
Around 75pc of the country is classified as disadvantaged, with around 100,000 farmers availing of the ANC scheme.
The current budget for the scheme is €205m and an additional €25m per year has been promised under the new Programme for Government.
Although the IFA is calling for all existing disadvantaged areas to remain protected, the Irish Natura And Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) says the present payment model "doesn't reflect the real constraints that farmers on the hills and in severely disadvantaged areas experience on an on-going basis".
Vincent Roddy of INHFA said greater compensation should be paid on the most disadvantaged land.
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