Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Off-farm income key to survival for many farms: McGuinness

Mairead McGuinness MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

"Romantic notions" about Ireland's small and medium-sized family farms will not ensure their survival, Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness has said.

"Some small farms are highly intensive in order to survive. Others survive because the farmer and/or spouse or partner work off farm and subsidise the farm with this off-farm income.

"Future-wise these are the most secure farms, as in addition, they receive support through the CAP," she said.

The vice president of the European Parliament says that generous tax incentives will encourage more farmers over 50 to rent out their land as an additional income stream.

"The owners of some small and medium-sized farms are realising that they can make more by renting their land to neighbouring farmers," she said.

Ms McGuinness also points out that if more women inherit land in the future, it may also change the dynamic in farming. She says younger generations will also bring more innovative ideas and new expectations for their farming enterprise.

Labour shortages

However, she believes access to skilled labour will continue to hamper development in the dairy sector.

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"The biggest constraint to dairy expansion is skilled labour. There are reports of some farmers looking to non-EU member states to meet their labour needs.

"Many dairy farmers who have doubled cow numbers know that it is more than double the work, and it demands new skills, in particular managing staff. Not all farmers are equipped with those skills.

"Labour shortages put pressure on the farmer and too much pressure can lead to health problems, both physical and mental," she concluded.

On farm safety, she anticipates that there will be stricter legislation about children's movement in the farming workplace.

"Farms and workplaces, and access to farmyards, should be restricted for children to times when they are fully supervised. There are too many farm accidents with tragic results for families."

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