Farmers rely on EU subsidies as incomes plummet by €5,000
FARMERS saw their incomes drop by nearly €5,000 each last year.
Teagasc's National Farm Survey 2012 showed average incomes on Irish farms fell from over €30,000 in 2011, to €25,483 last year.
Subsidies paid to farmers now account for 81pc of farm income, with the average payment amounting to €20,534.
The EU's single farm payment, which provides the bulk of these subsidies, is being hotly debated in Europe amidst attempts to share it out more fairly between Europe's farmers.
It is of particularly crucial importance to cattle farmers and accounts for between 80 and 86pc of farm income.
For sheep farmers it's worth 72pc of total earnings, for tillage farmers it's 66pc and for dairy farmers it's a third of income.
Meanwhile, the bad weather which caused last year's income drop is continuing to push up costs during 2013, farm advisory body Teagasc said.
Farming costs rose by 9pc in 2012, mainly due to bad weather hitting cereal yields and forcing farmers to purchase more fodder. However, last year's drop in income came after a particularly good year in 2011 and earnings are still well ahead of 2010 and earlier years.
But the average figures conceal wide variations, as average income on dairy farms was €51,648, while on cattle farms it was just €11,743.
However, though dairy farmers still fare best overall, their incomes fell by 24pc from a high of almost €70,000 last year.
Teagasc survey head Thia Hennessy said food prices paid to farmers had remained favourable in 2012, but the bad weather affected costs and yields.
"In particular, dairy farms were impacted by the wet summer and direct costs of production increased by 21pc," she said.
The number of farms which are considered economically viable, in terms of providing a living wage, has fallen from 41pc in 2011 to 37pc last year.
Over 26,000 farms are economically vulnerable as the business is not viable and neither the farmer nor the spouse works off the farm to supplement earnings.
The number of farmers who had a job off the farm fell from 30pc in 2011 to 27pc. The annual survey is based on data from 1,000 farms – which are representative of 80,000 farms nationwide – and Teagasc has been carrying it out for 40 years
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) said that the income drop showed the impact of bad weather and government cuts to farm schemes.