MORE must be done to help farm families develop alternative sources of income, according to Irish Rural Link (IRL).
It claimed the limited spend under the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme’s farm diversification measure shows this is the case.
The measure is to support on-farm diversification such as tourism activities, farm shops, open farms and speciality food.
IRL chief executive Seamus Boland said there is €17 million earmarked for farm diversification under the Rural Development Programme.
But midway through the programme just €2m, or under 12%, of the allocation has been spent.
He said 11 Leader companies, nearly one third of those delivering the programme, have given either nothing or less than €10,000 to farm diversification.
“Our economic crisis means farming households have lost much off farm income in areas such as construction,” said Mr Boland.
“Farm diversification is a way of addressing this but there are obviously barriers stopping farm families from pursuing it.
“This €17m is an opportunity to begin to broaden the rural economy and must be used,” he said.
Mr Boland said farmers are business people and must be innovative every day but they are being asked to move away from the business they know and learn new skills.
Farmers need more training on formal entrepreneurship. More promotion and communication on farm diversification is also needed.
“Any member of the farm household is eligible for funding under the measure so we need to look at inclusive entrepreneurship and getting more women involved,” he added.
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