Opinion

Farmers should be forced to retire at 65

The last year or so has seen the press filled with stories of elderly farmers killed by freshly-calved cows and other livestock.

The reality is that farming is the most dangerous way-of-life that any person can follow in this country.

And the older one gets, the greater the risk of being hurt by an animal.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. The reflexes that we had as young men and women become a fast-fading memory as we pass through the 60-years-of-age barrier.

Farming is a young person’s occupation. And this should be reflected in the legislation that is enacted throughout the EU (European Union) on the matter.

It’s clear to me that farmers should be forced to retire, once they reach 65 years-of-age.

One way of making this possible is for the EU to declare that ‘basic payments’ and other support measures will not be paid out to people who are above this age threshold.

Such a move would also have the added benefit of forcing farmers to have a viable succession plan in place, before they reach an agreed retirement age.

The industry has been talking for years about getting the average (farmer) age down. Surely, this would be one way of achieving such an objective.

In return for an agreement to retire at a certain age, the EU should also put in place a support scheme that would see regular pension payments made to those former producers who had implemented a feasible succession plan.

These could be bolted-on to the national pension payments, which they are already eligible for.

All the statistics point to the sad reality that older people are more liable to succumb to a farm accident than those within any other age group. Anything that can be done to reduce these figures should, and must, be looked at.

It’s also time for the farming industry to realise that better education programmes and voluntary initiatives of different sorts are not getting the farm accident figures down quickly enough.

At this stage, it really is time to look at other options. Introducing a mandatory retirement age for farmers is one possible way of bringing a fresh perspective to the subject.

Farming is a way-of-life for many. But, on the other hand, it should not be allowed to become an all-consuming commitment for older people. Everyone deserves a safe and enjoyable retirement, free from the stress associated with managing a business that really could cost them their lives.