IFA: ‘Farm income figures a wake up call for Government’

New figures on farm income in 2018 should serve as a “wake up call” for the Government and the EU, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Speaking after the release of the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2018 – which was published today, Thursday, May 30 – Joe Healy, the IFA president, called on the Government to establish a scheme that would allow farmers to use a “precautionary savings mechanism” to help stabilise incomes.

The Teagasc survey found that farm incomes across most sectors were down in 2018 – some considerably. The changeable and often extreme weather condition in the early part of last year was highlighted as a major factor.

Farmers need an agri-environment scheme similar to the REPS [Rural Environment Protection Scheme] of the past, with a maximum payment of up to €10,000 per farm to be included as part of the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] National Strategic Plan.

“Today’s results highlight the volatility facing farmers. We want Government to support proposals put forward for income volatility which allows farmers to use a precautionary savings mechanism to help stabilise incomes in a sector that is fundamentally exposed to global uncertainty,” demanded Healy.

According to the Teagasc research, average family farm income on cattle-rearing farms dipped to an estimated €8,318 in 2018 – a reduction of 22% on the €10,642 in 2017.

A sharp increase in production costs was cited as the main cause of this fall in income.

Meanwhile, ‘Cattle Other’ farms – which comprise a range of cattle production systems (e.g. cattle finishers) other than suckler production systems – also experienced an income drop, due to higher input expenditure.

In dairy, average farm incomes fell by 31% to €61,273 – compared with the 2017 level of €88,829.

On the other hand, tillage saw an increase in average farm income in 2018; it rose by 18% to €42,678, despite low yields.

This was attributed to “a large jump” in harvest prices.