It is quite clear, despite differences in definitions, that farm incomes are substantially lower than those prevailing in the wider economy.
A high proportion earn less than the minimum wage and there is no return on investment, particularly on cattle farms.
And this has continued for a very long time in Ireland and in other countries.
It is substantially the reason why the numbers of farms has been in decline and the average size has been increasing.
Despite the increase in scale, incomes have not kept pace.
There has been a particular focus in the debate in Ireland recently about the effect of the power of supermarkets and their marketing practices.
While this is a minor factor, long term trends are far more important.
Farm incomes in other member states
Surveys of farms are also carried out in all the other member states.
Unfortunately the most recent income comparison I can find is for 2012, when incomes in Ireland were placed 11th of 27 member states.
Average farm net income for Ireland, Italy and Finland were similar at about €22,000, which was just above the EU average.
The highest levels were achieved in Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, where average farm incomes exceeded €60,000.
In the UK the average was over €50,000.
The lowest incomes were in the newer member states in eastern Europe.
In Slovakia the average farm made a loss, while in Slovenia, Romania, Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus, average farm incomes were below €10,000.
Across Europe earnings on cereal farms were approximately four times higher than those in mixed crops or livestock, explained in part by their large scale.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved