Farm Ireland

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Farm-assist payments drop to lowest level in five years

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IFA's farm business chairman Martin Stapleton
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

The number of farmers in need of farm-assist payments has dropped to its lowest in the past five years, according to the latest figures.

The statistics from the Department of Social Protection show those approaching retirement are most dependent on the pension, as two-thirds are 50 years of age or over and almost a quarter are within five years of the state pension age.

It also paints a picture of the level of demand across the country, with counties in the north-west such as Donegal and Mayo having the highest number of claimants for the means-assisted payment.

Current figures show that there are 7,234 people in receipt of payments, compared to 10,303 in 2013 and 9,809 in 2014.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said that the reason for the decline is due to dependants moving from the current scheme to the state pension.

"Over the last five years, the numbers in receipt of a farm-assist payment have been falling. The customers on the scheme are disproportionately older in age.

"Over 66pc are 50 years of age or over and nearly a quarter of the current scheme recipients will reach the state pension age over the next five years. From this age profile, it is likely that claimants are moving from the scheme to retirement."

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The latest figures show Donegal and Mayo having the highest number of claimants.

At present 1,265 claimants are from Donegal, followed by 1,156 in Mayo for the means-­assisted payment.

IFA farm business chairman Martin Stapleton said a possible reason for this concentration in Donegal and Mayo is because farms in the "west of Ireland traditionally have smaller holdings of cattle and lower income margins" and that their incomes need to be supplemented.

He also added that there are a number of people on the state payment between the ages of 40 and 60 as this is an important stage in rearing a family and running the farm.

"60pc of cases are from the ages 40-60 which is an important stage in rearing a family and running the farm and they need the farm assist to remain on the land.

"It's a very important payment," he said.

IFA's family farm chair Caroline Farrell also pointed out that the payment "helps sustain the family farm as in some cases the Single Farm Payment may not be enough".

Payment stigma

INHFA's national treasurer Brendan O'Malley said that in some cases there's a stigma attached to the farm-assist payment but urged those who are "running tight" to apply for it.

"If you find yourself running tight, go through the process and apply for the scheme. Look into it and see if there's potential. In a lot of cases there is a stigma attached, but it's a form of income support that's very important."

The maximum weekly rate of payment is €193. Farm assist recipients are also eligible to avail of the 250 additional places on the Rural Social Scheme announced as part of the Budget 2018 package.

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