Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands Northwest Chris MacManus has expressed how more needs to be done to support women in becoming farm managers.

Speaking from Brussels, MacManus highlighted “just how far behind many other countries Ireland currently stands”.

“According to the 2016 figures, Ireland is among the five worst EU member states when it comes to women managing farm holdings,” the MEP said.

Only 11% of farm managers in Ireland are women – this in sharp contrast to countries like Latvia or Lithuania where women account for 45% of all managers.

“In the short-term, achieving at a minimum the EU average, which stands at 28%, will be an uphill struggle – but the work must start now.”

Imbalances in agriculture

The MEP added that Ireland is “generally fairly progressive on most issues, but it seems we still have a distance to bridge in addressing imbalances in agriculture”.

“The long-held Irish tradition of choosing one son to take over the farm, or dividing it between the sons, has resulted in an endemic exclusion of women from this career choice,” the MEP continued.

This is despite women having always played a central role in the running of the farm.

MacManus said a “change of attitude” would be central to addressing the issue.

“When we talk about saving the family farm model, it is a deliberate reference to our Irish farm structure, which is characterised by all members of the family contributing to the success of the farm.

“Women’s contribution must be recognised when it comes to farm succession planning and a genuine change in attitude is required.

“Generational renewal is a chronic problem in the farming sector, with only about one in 10 farmers being under the age of 40. The future of European agriculture will depend on our ability to encourage more young farmers, new farmers and women farmers into the sector.”

The new CAP and Rural Development Programme must look at the factors that create barriers to women becoming farm managers, such as access to land and access to finance.

At national level, MacManus said that young women must be encouraged to study degrees in agriculture, to do Green Certificate courses, and to be a part of the overall development of innovative technology, “which will transform agriculture in the coming years”.