Editorial: The call for incentivising farmers to retire early won’t work, we don’t have replacements
Its been a safe week in Irish farming and a bad one in British farming with two farm deaths this week. Every farm death weighs heavy upon me when I have to report them because I know it is a whole family who are affected.
Reading Dr. John McNamara’s comments this week on farm safety were welcome, incentivising older farmers to retire would most likely help reduce farm deaths but let's be frank if these men retire we don’t have replacements for them.
The farming industry in Ireland is crying out for new entrants. Retiring farmers are the least of our worries.
Farm deaths could go down and we might be able to farm safer with younger men in place but that doesn’t address the huge problem that there simply aren’t enough farmers.
Lets take a look at why farm accidents happen. The majority of accidents are usually men working on their own. They are above 40 in most cases but the facts don’t tell the whole story. The farmers are working alone because they don’t have help. New entrants are not in the industry or it doesn’t pay to have a second farmer on the ground with you on the day. Our farmers are financially stressed, physically tired and overworked and alone.
Imposing a Scandinavian model where we all retired at 55 would be great in an ideal world but have you been to a mart lately? Most of the farmers are over 55 and only a handful of attendees are young.
There have been 522 deaths on Irish farms since 1989 and those over 55 are most likely to be killed. Let’s address farm safety but let’s also address our labour shortage.
Farming for many is a part-time job now, in particular, our beef farmers. Why? Because it simply doesn’t pay them to farm full time unless they go big.
I'm not suggesting that farmers work until they drop of old age but I am saying we need to be aware that works in the Scandinavian countries may not work here. Our model will need to change and be adapted. The Department of Agriculture actually needs to get off its rear and make an effort on farm safety in the first place and then we need to look at how we retain and attract people to the industry and how a real living might actually be made.
Until then nothing is going to change.