Tough year for farmers revealed in analysis of 2,548 sets of accounts

Tough year for farmers revealed in analysis of 2,548 sets of accounts

Farmers want to reduce their carbon footprint, with 93% willing to take action to achieve this, via initiatives such as renewables, carbon capture and storage, and use of alternative fertilisers.

Nine out of 10 say carbon tax collected from the agri-sector should be ringfenced for farmer support, and 70% would support grant aid to use more sustainable energy on their farms.

The support for environment initiatives, despite viability worries for many farmers, is revealed in the annual farm report compiled by ifac, the farming, food, and agribusiness professional services firm. The report includes the views of almost 1,500 farmers, and analysis of trends from 2,548 sets of ifac clients’ farm accounts.

John Donoghue, chief executive of ifac said: “Each year, our report gives us a snapshot of what it’s like to be an Irish farmer. It’s certainly not easy being a farmer in 2020. The whole industry has been hit by a very challenging period and, just like last year, many farmers are increasingly worried about the future.

“Brexit is still looming and the impact of Covid-19 is now evident across some sectors.

“A predicted fall in milk prices and markets being put on hold is affecting dairy farmers. Beef farmers have been hit with the temporary closure of major Irish buyers, less beef being produced, and confirmed Covid-19 cases at meat-processing plants.

“What’s clear this year is that farmers have a long, tough road ahead. Many sectors will need new plans, and many farmers will need the continued support of their external advisers, with specialist sector knowledge, to help them on this journey.

“At ifac, we will continue to anticipate their needs and provide the advice and support needed to help them face the challenges ahead. For example, in response to last year’s report, we focused on growing our succession advisory team, and we developed a new technology-aided management service, called FarmPro, to help our clients improve farm viability, make better decisions, and more profit.”

The 2020 survey confirms that about 50% of farmers are concerned about their farm’s future, and 90% of those surveyed have no definitive farm succession plan in place, with 33% avoiding this issue because they think their business is not viable enough, and they would not encourage the next generation to take it on.

The report reveals an average dairy farm net profit, before other farm income, of €948 per hectare in 2019, up from €804 in 2018. The average net profit for the top 25% was €1,735/hectare last year.

But the average beef farmer lost €101/ha, before other farm income (€116 in 2018). The average net profit for the top 25% was €251/ha last year.

The average sheep farmer lost €144/ha. But when other farm income is included, a net profit of €337/ha was achieved.

The average tillage farmer made a profit of €153/ha, and €591 when other farm income is included.

Half the farmers surveyed don’t prepare cash-flow budgets, mostly because they don’t have enough time, or the required financial ability. Just over half started contributing to a private pension plan in their twenties. But 22% have no household personal life cover.

To look after their mental health and wellbeing, farmers favour exercise, talking to others, participating in discussion groups, eating well, having interests outside of farming, taking breaks and holidays, and having regular health checks.

But almost one in four don’t do anything for mental health and wellbeing.

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