The current SUSI grants system for third-level education grants shows that farm incomes are very low and the IFA have been making this point for years, according to Tom Doyle, IFA Farm Business Chairman.

Doyle was speaking to Newstalk on the topic of farmers receiving more grants than people on low and high incomes on the PAYE system.

A 2012 report by the Higher Education Authority found that 40% of farmers received college grants, compared to 17% of professionals on lower incomes and 10% of professionals on higher incomes.

Farmers are “absolutely entitled to apply” for third-level education grants he told Newstalk.

“This story comes up every year, it’s based on a complete misrepresentation of fact. It highlights the low level of income on farms, not just on farms but in rural areas.

“To qualify a family of four must have an income of €52,000 and the average farm income is less than half of that, so it’s not surprising that farmers qualify.

“The system is showing up that farm incomes are very low and we’ve being making a point of it for years,” Doyle said.

The IFA Farm Business Chairman said that certain people keep repeating this information and that it’s fiction.

“It makes perfect sense (that farmers should qualify). €23,000-24,000 is the accepted figure, so a huge number of farmers will fall into that and outside income will be included.

“They are absolutely entitled to apply. Most rural children will have to pay for accommodation.”

Doyle also said that he doesn’t understand the logic on the topic of farmers not having a mortgage to pay and having more disposable income compared to PAYE workers.

“A lot of farmers have significant borrowings, a lot who have high income on paper have significant borrowings and are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“A farm is a tool of your trade, if you don’t have a farm you’re not farming,” he said.

Graham Doyle, Head of Communications at SUSI said that the system first looks at nationality, residency and that the applicant is progressing in education in an approved course.

“Then it comes down to means testing, where you see this disparity. There are areas where unemployment will be higher in Dublin and the success in those areas will be higher,” Doyle said.