THE vast majority of small farmers in the West of Ireland earn a farm income of less than €5,000 per annum but yet most of them have indicated that they will continue on in farming, according to the findings of a Teagasc survey.
Nine out of 10 households in this low-income category of farming have an ‘outside income’, a major factor in them staying in their own area as they farm on the side.
However, according to the findings of the Teagasc National Farm Survey, the shape of future agricultural, social and economic policies will ‘likely result’ in more targeted payments aimed at supporting smaller farmers. Ireland however is not unique in terms of small farm size with nine out of every 10 farms in the EU operating under 20 hectares.
Research carried out by a Teagasc team of researchers and a UCC professor – Emma Dillon, Thia Hennessy, John Lynch and Mary Brennan – highlights the ‘public good’ element of keeping small farmers in business across rural Ireland.
“Despite the low levels of profitability on these farms [incomes less than €5,000pa] 85% plan to continue in farming.
“As they are strongly embedded in the local economy, they play an important role in supporting rural employment, managing the natural environment and in maintaining the social fabric of rural areas,” the report authors point out.
In an article in the Spring edition of the Teagasc TResearch magazine they also point out that smaller farms have lower stocking rates leading to smaller output emissions of Greenhouse Gas Emissions per hectare.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.