Reacting to the results of the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2020, which was published yesterday (Monday, July 19), the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said it “underlines the vulnerability of farm incomes”.

Tim Cullinan, the association’s president, said that the overall increase in farm incomes reported in the survey is a positive but “does not take away from the ongoing vulnerability of the majority of Irish farmers”.

According to the preliminary results outlined yesterday, the national average income has increased from €23,600 in 2019 to €25,663 in 2020, representing an increase of 9%.

“Thankfully, Covid-19 had a limited impact on agriculture. However, we still have a situation where the average income for many sectors remains at critically low levels.”

The survey results show that average family farm incomes (FFI) increased for Dairy -up 13% – ‘cattle other’ (including beef finishers) – up 8% – and sheep – up a substantial 24%.

Cattle rearing farms saw a negligible change in average income, while tillage average incomes fell by 1%.

“It’s important to remember that the average income of suckler farmers, for instance, remains at just over €9,000, while average annual earnings per employee across the entire economy is closer to €40,000, according to the Central Statistics Office [CSO],” Cullinan pointed out.

The survey also showed that only 34% of the roughly 93,000 farms surveyed are financially ‘viable’ (defined as meaning the farm income can remunerate family labour at the minimum agricultural wage and provide a 5% return on investment in non-land assets).

Meanwhile, 33.1% of farms are ‘sustainable’ (meaning they are not ‘viable’ but the farmer or spouse has off-farm income); while 32.9% of farms are vulnerable (meaning it is not ‘viable’ and neither farmer nor spouse work off-farm).

“52% of farms are relying on off-farm employment as an income stream, and the reality is, without this income, there would be no farming taking place on most of those farms,” the IFA president said.

Cullinan also stressed the importance of the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), highlighting the reliance of some sectors on direct payments.