FARMERS can’t continue to survive on direct supports and need to diversify into new, less dependent, land-based enterprises.
That’s the view of Irish Rural Link (IRL) which said that this requires rural development spending to give direction to the wider rural economy, ensuring the children, spouses, brothers and sisters of farmers can gain local employment.
It said all future rural development funding programmes need to be sector neutral and focus on job creation and the long-term sustainability of the rural economy instead of subsidising declining sectors.
IRL’s vision will be contained in its submission to the Department of Agriculture’s public consultation on the shape of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013.
Chief executive Seamus Boland said the 2006 census shows that only one in five of the working population of rural areas is working in agriculture, a decline from one in three in 2002.
“Teagasc has shown how reliant farm households are on on-farm income to stay viable.
“In future the focus must be on developing opportunities for off-farm working for part-time farmers, the children of farmers and for the rural population who are not involved in farming,” he said.
Mr Boland said that it is difficult to see how a policy which directs more than 90% of its funding to agricultural interventions can achieve its rural development objectives.
OECD research shows that many assumptions around the inevitable decline of rural economies are not borne out by the facts.
“Experience in other OECD countries shows that buoyant rural economies can be developed if they harness local assets and benefit from good transport and communications infrastructure,” he said.
Mr Boland said Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith had stated that the provision of adequate broadband facilities is an issue of considerable importance for farmers and for all rural dwellers.
He said that the minister had stated that he was happy to include provisions for rural broadband in the recent revision of the rural development programme.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved