Volatility in farm incomes was highlighted last week by the Irish Farmers Association, who said it represented a major challenge for family farms.
The IFA was speaking in the wake of its own preliminary estimates for 2012 which show that farm income fell by 22 per cent for the year.
The organisaiton points out that this amounts to a loss of over €500m in national farm income, leaving average farm incomes at an estimated €18,000.
Explaining these figures, two factors are at play - a combinaton of the atrocious weather conditions during the year and particularly the summer and, high output costs which are putting sustained pressure on farmers margins.
These statistics on the farming year came in a week in which negotiations on the overall EU Budget in Brussels were taking place. These talks have yielded no results to date and a Budget won’t now be agreed until the new year,
It is a critical Budget for Irish farming, however, and the IFA has highlighted the role of direct payments in underpinning farm incomes. It’s estimated that these payments will account for more than 90 per cent of farm incomes this year.
The maintenance of the CAP budget is, therefore, the number one priority for farming organisations.
In the wider community criticism has often been voiced about the level of subsidies that are being paid to the agricultural sector.
However, in an overall context it’s worth bearing in mind that the sector is currently one of the most viable parts of the economy. Our international reputation for the foodstuffs we produce is high and well earned and it should continue to be supported.