Margaret Donnelly: 'If we don't support young farmers we're not supporting farming'

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

There's no question but our membership of the EU and the benefits of the CAP have been a huge boost to rural Ireland over the past 35 years. But it's time the EU looked at who it is and isn't supporting.

Average farm incomes in Ireland make farmers look like the poor relation, when compared to the average industrial wage, and when the figures of farm incomes are broken down, there's clear divisions around exactly what type of farmers are making an actual living from the land.

But one sector that needs to ensure its voice is heard loud and clear are young farmers. It doesn't matter if they are dairy or organic, or farming just 10ha, Ireland and Europe must put young, active farmers at the heart of its future plans.

The EU can write all the rules it wants, around what a young farmer is, how 'active' they need to be, how educated they are and what kind of farm income they can or can't have, but it's pointless if farming remains difficult to enter as a career and provide a paltry income and no life.

The price and lack of availability of land in Ireland means young farmers face a tough battle from the outset, competing with established farmers, before facing years of building up a holding that probably won't provide a decent income or lifestyle.

Young farmers up and down the country are entering the profession because of their love for farming and the lifestyle it can offer. But they must be supported, over and above any other division in the sector, with more bright and talented young people encouraged to consider a career in farming.

The sector must simply make itself more attractive and that push must come from all farming organisations, or there is no future for the sector.

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