Broadband access an 'urgent' issue for young farmers
Half of the country's young farmers have little or no access to high speed broadband.
A survey of 295 farmers ahead of today's FBD Young Farmer of the Year awards explored issues impacting rural society, including debt, education levels and social attitudes.
Young farmers reported that 48pc were living in rural areas with poor broadband, while 5pc reported no access to broadband.
Macra president, Seán Finan said farmers now access a wide range of services online.
"Quality broadband is key to ensuring young farmers can access services online and to ensure they are in touch with the latest information that's available to them to help them to be the best at what they do within the farm gate," he said.
"I call on the government to prioritise the roll out of high speed broadband in rural Ireland as a matter of urgency".
Nine out of 10 young farmers reported they will be going to the ballot boxes to vote at the next general election.
It found a third attended a religious service weekly and a further fifth monthly, while more than six out of 10 feel that abortion should be legalised in Ireland.
Despite the expansion of the country's dairy herd, 35pc of those surveyed have no debt on their farms, a further 30pc owe less than €50,000, while 16pc are carrying debt levels of more than €150,000.
Mr Finan said access to credit on "favourable terms" was a vital ingredient of success for all young farmers.
Especially, as almost half intend to apply for various grants such as animal housing or handling equipment under the TAMS II grant scheme.
Seven out of 10 farmers have completed some form of agricultural education - from a minimum of a Green Cert with Teagasc up to third level university courses.
The survey found that nearly 30pc of young farmers are not measuring grass, 58pc are not weighing stock, while around 77pc of young farmers have completed a soil test in the last three years.
"Soil fertility, grass management and weighing of stock are three key aspects and some of the drivers of profitability on any livestock farm no matter what your enterprise is," Mr Finan said.
He said Macra will continue to encourage farmers to improve technical abilities through the Young Farmer Skillnet programme.
A key issue being highlighted at EU level is sustainability, yet Mr Finan said the survey found there is no consensus among young farmers on how they view the new environmental protection schemes.
He said there was nearly an even three-way split between those who viewed the schemes as environmentally important, key to Ireland's sustainable food image, or simply as an additional income stream.
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