Sunday, February 3, 2013

48% of farmers having no heir is threat to agri sector - O' Súilleabháin

A recent study by Macra na Feirme has revealed that 48% of Irish farms do not have an identified successor.  Fionntán O' Súilleabháin, a spokesperson for local Sinn Féin, has said that the findings are startling and define a clear threat to our nations agri sector.  Mr O' Súilleabháin accused the government of not giving the sector the support it needs in order to meet the targets laid out in the Food Harvest 2020 document.

"These new figures show that Irish farming is in the midst of a social and economical crisis," Mr O' Súilleabháin said.  "Only half of Irish farms have an heir apparent.  Only 6.2% of Irish farmers are under 35.  Contrast that with the fact that 26.3% are over 65 and you realise that our whole farming sector is under threat."

"Successive Irish governments have neglected the agriculture sector and rural communities.  The last Fianna Fail administration allowed agricultural output to collapse.  In 2009 our output in that sector was less than it had been two decades earlier which resulted in farm income falling by 30%. Nationally the number of farms has fallen from 228,000 in 1975 to 128,000 in 2006.  It is projected that this decline will continue, reaching 105,000 in 2015, as more small farmers are forced off the land."

"Agriculture has the potential  to benefit our whole economy and to create jobs across the island.  The IFA estimates that farmers and farm families spend €8 billion per year in our economy.  It’s thought that 300,000 jobs are supported by the agriculture, food and related industries.  For every €100 of agriculture output there is a further €73 of output to the wider economy.  71% of raw materials used by our agri and fishing industries are sourced in the domestic market."

"The government must work to get more young people farming.  Failure to do so would result in a grave threat to the targets laid out in the Food Harvest 2020 plan.  Threats to existing incentives such as the single farm payment must end now and these payments must be ring-fenced.  The land leasing tax exemption scheme should be promoted better.  This allows the transfer of land to more productive farmers.  It is ideal for part time farmers who hold down another job and for the elderly."

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