The findings of a poll which highlights that more than half of farm households have an off-farm source of income shows a "quite disgraceful reality" of a sector struggling to make ends meet, according to the ICMSA.
The poll showed 53% of those questioned now have some form of off-farm income, and that more than a third of farmers surveyed also have a second job.
In almost two thirds (65%) of farm families aged between 35 and 44, one or other partner works off-farm. More often it is the spouse.
Some 32% of farmers aged 34 and under also work off-farm, and in the 45 to 54 age group, 34% of farmers also work off-farm.
The findings come amid growing anger from farmers over the plummeting price of milk, culminating in protests earlier this month outside the European Parliament in Brussels.
The lifting of milk quotas earlier this year has not resulted in a surge in non-dairy farmers entering the sector, but milk prices fell from 39c per litre in April last year to 25.5c in July 2015.
ICMSA president John Comer said: “This result merely confirms an unfortunate and quite disgraceful reality: It’s no longer possible for even a full-time dairy farmer working an average of 60 hours per week to be sure of an income sufficient to support his family and pay his or her bills.
“The extent of the collapse in the ability of full time farming to support a family is best illustrated by what has happened to milk price over the year to the end of August. The milk price paid to farmers over that period fell by nearly 40%. We emphasise ‘to farmers’ because — very significantly — the retail price to consumers didn’t fall by a single cent.”
He said many farmers now had little choice but to supplement their farming income through other means, as the amount paid for produce was now cut down to an extent where they would be better off working a 39-hour week on the minimum wage.
Irish Examiner reporter Noel Baker asking farmers about other sources of income off the farm after the irish Examiner and the iCMSA national opinion poll found more than half of farm households are forced to work off the farm. Video Dan Linehan
“The combination of post-quota increase in supply of milk and the continuing disgrace that is margin-grabbing by the retail corporations has led to the situation where as of the end of August, an average Irish dairy farmer working an average 60-hour week, actually earned an income above social welfare but some €2,300 below what someone on the minimum wage working a 39-hour week had already earned,” he said.
“There is an income crisis in Irish farming most specifically in dairying and, notwithstanding the publication and attention around projections like ‘Food Harvest’ and ‘Food Wise’, there’s very little sign that policymakers or the EU Commission understand that every time we have one of these income-disappearance period more and more farm families just give and exit farming.
“That is what has happened all over the EU to the family farm system and ICMSA is determined that it won’t happen here.
“That anxiety that the Government and Commission are not really ‘in tune’ with the EU’s dairy farmers was what was behind the massive demo in Brussels on September 7 and it’s also the reason the survey shows no interest in other farmers ‘switching’ to dairying.”
If viewing the data on mobile use landscape view for a better experience
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved