ICSA President Patrick Kent has expressed surprise and disappointment at Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney’s comments on farm household incomes.

The Minister’s comments that family farm income does not equate to farm household income, and that on 51% of farms, either the holder or spouse had an off-farm job, were made in response to a recent Dáil question.

According to Kent the Minister appears to suggest that low farm income doesn’t matter if it can be subsidised by off-farm activities.

“The Minister’s comments are nothing short of outrageous,” said Mr. Kent. “Would he expect staff in his own department to be happy with a pay cut just because their partners had an income of their own? Would nurses or teachers or the Gardaí accept such a situation? I fail to see how spousal income comes into this equation.”

“I’d have to query the Minister’s motivation in the light of this,” continued Mr. Kent. “Is he truly committed to improving the plight of struggling beef and suckler farmers, or is he simply biding time until he leaves office and can pass the buck to someone else?”

In the light of the recent Teagasc figures showing that a farmer with 70 sucklers on 40 hectares can expect to generate €100 per hectare net profit on this enterprise, ICSA Suckler Chairman Dermot Kelleher has called on farmers to examine their profits and consider whether their businesses are viable or not.

“It can cost up to €700 per annum to keep a cow,” said Mr. Kelleher. “It seems to me that the vast majority of weanlings going through West of Ireland marts are not covering the cost of the cow, and farmers are forced to plough most of their Single Farm Payment straight back into their suckler herd.”

“Any farmers who are losing money on their cows need to ask themselves whether or not it’s worth continuing with what is then essentially an expensive hobby.”