Just last week, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine stated that on 28% of all farms the farm holder has an off-farm job. It is estimated that, on 75% of farms, either the farmer and/or spouse has another source of income, be it from employment, pensions or other social welfare payments.
But, should part-time farmers be entitled to the same Single Farm Payment as full-time farmers or should they get one at all? There are many part-time farmers who do a great job, whose farming enterprise is in the black, but they also choose to work part-time. However, the impact of part-time farming has, for some in the beef sector, put profitability on the back burner. Robbing Peter to pay Paul on loss-making beef farms helps no one, and certainly not farmers whose only income comes from farming.
Is it fair that a full-time farmer should have to compete in the sales ring against a part-time farmer whose livelihood is not dependent to the same extent on the success of the transaction?
The actual value of the Single Farm Payment every farmer receives is likely to decrease over the next decade due to rising costs and integral convergence. This will probably do two things: force more farmers to seek off-farm work and increase the amount of off-farm income going into subsidising unviable farming enterprises.
Perhaps it’s time for Europe to look at the Single Farm Payment and question whether it’s doing more harm than good to farmers in some sectors who are committing their time and effort to farming, yet are having to compete with farmers who, in effect have a triple income: the farm; the off-farm job and the Single Farm Payment?
The receipt of a Single Farm Payment should come on the back of full commitment to the vocation that is farming.