Only one in five interviewed for the 2017 Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll was concerned about their level of debt.
This 21% result compared with 24% last year and 19% in 2015.
Debt has not been a worry for 62% in 2015, 56% in 2016, and 61% this year.
The balance is made up by those who neither agreed or disagreed with the statement, “My level of farm debt is too high”
(see detailed results, right).
There was agreement with the statement for only 9% of over-65s, 21% of under-34s, and 24-29% in the 35-64 age bracket (the more expensive family life stage, at which debts are likely to be highest).
Debt worry was highest for dairy farmers (28%) and lowest for tillage farmers (10%).
The survey finding indicates that high-profile farm and machinery repossessions, and warnings about ruthless vulture funds calling in loans, are likely to be the exception rather than the rule.
The fall in debt worries by three percentage points compared to last year may be linked to the successful agriculture cash-flow support loan scheme launched last January by the Department of Agriculture in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.
This has enabled nearly 4,000 farmers to borrow at interest rates of only 2.95%.
This has helped them to to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, such as merchant debt, ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.
The average loan size so far in the agriculture cash-flow support loan scheme is €32,000, with more than half the loans being advanced for terms of four years or more.