Thursday 2 August 2007

The Greedy Farmer II

According to Teagasc's National Farm Subsidy, of which a summary can be found here, a stunning 98% of Family Farm income is earned in the form of subsidies.

This is precisely why I get so angry when the IFA refuses to let walkers on their land unless they receive still more payments from the state.

I want to qualify this by saying that I know many small farmers who are deeply attached to their land. It is reasonable to guess that some of the older farmers I know would have known their grandparents who might have had direct experience of the latter phases of the land war. So their bond with the land is deep in their psyche.

It is also true that, even if their payments are from the state, many farmers work very hard. The hours are long, irregular, and holidays can often be few and far between.

Nevertheless, as Mary Raftery points out in an excellent piece in the Times, we, as a society need to start asking hard questions about the future of Farming and the countryside.

The percentage of people living off the land will decline still further. How best can we manage this so that rural communities stay economically viable?

If small farmers are to be the guardians of our countryside, what kind of structure can be put in place to ensure that this is both sensible and effective?

And how can there be more of a handshake between tourism and farming in those areas - like my beloved Donegal - where farming alone is practically unviable, but where a huge reserve of potential for tourism lies untapped.

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