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Agriculture; Food and the Marine | Family farm industry supports

To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to monitor the needs of the agri-food producing sector, with particular reference to the need to ensure the viability of the family farm; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


My Department constantly monitors the needs of the agri-food sector. Along with regularly meeting with representatives of the sector, holding formal consultations and attending public forums, we monitor developments in farm incomes, viability, structures, key commodities, food industry trends and other key economic indicators.

My Department prepares and publishes an Annual Review and Outlook (ARO), which provides up-to-date information and statistical analysis from a variety of sources, to give a detailed overview of Ireland’s agri-food sector and an outlook for the future. I will publish the ARO for 2022 shortly.

The Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) for 2021, which was released in September, looks at the viability of family farms.  

A farm is defined as viable if family labour is remunerated at greater than or equal to the minimum wage and there is sufficient income to provide an additional five per cent return on non-land based assets employed on the farm.

According to the NFS, 42% of farms were viable in 2021. This is the highest proportion of viable farms in the last decade, up from 35% in 2020. A further 31% of farms were considered sustainable due to the presence of an off-farm income source, and 27% were regarded as vulnerable.

There is a strong correlation between viability and system of farming, whether full-time or part-time. Based on the number of hours’ work required, about one third of farms are considered full-time farms by Teagasc.

About 90% of dairy farms are considered full-time, while less than 20% of cattle and sheep farms are considered full-time. Full-time farms are often the larger farms with average utilisable agricultural area (U.A.A) of 74 hectares compared to 30 hectares for part-time farms.

According to the NFS, in 80% of farm households either the farmer and/or spouse has an off-farm job and/or other income from pension or social assistance. Therefore, just 20% of farm households rely fully on their farm as their only source of income. In addition, in 2021 Irish farms received an average of €15,033 in Exchequer and EU payments to assist in the viability of their farms.

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