Farming survey: Over half of farmers do not have a private pension

An opinion poll finding that just 42% of farmers have a private pension scheme is linked to the volatility of the sector and needs to be tackled by Government, according to one of the country’s largest farming organisations.

Farming survey: Over half of farmers do not have a private pension

The findings show that those farmers who do have a private pension are likely to be middle-aged, while younger farmers — and those who have already reached state pension age — are less likely to have arranged for one.

The president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), John Comer, said the Government would need to consider proposals to guard against a pensions timebomb in the agricultural sector.

“The problem around the fact that half the farmers surveyed don’t have a pension is a consequence of the fact that it is, to all intents and purposes, practically impossible to work to a financial plan for a farm from one year to the next — much less think about 20 or 30 years time,” said Mr Comer.

“The problems and non-take-up of private pension arrangements in the dairy sector particularly result from the wild price and income volatility that is already occurring and which is widely predicted to become even more extreme in coming years.

“Recent Teagasc average income projections for dairy farmers excited comment by putting them around €65,000.

“Much less attention was given to the fact that as recently as 2015/16 milk price and dairy income collapsed so completely that milk price fell below the costs of production and milk suppliers went a whole calendar year with no income whatsoever from their dairying operations.

“We can’t go on in this boom-to-bust-to-boom cycle and ICMSA has lobbied successive governments to introduce tools that would allow family farms to address this volatility and allow some degree of the predictability required to even think about pension provision.”

This month, the ICMSA had what it termed “a very progressive meeting” with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe on its Farm Management Deposit Scheme proposal that would allow farmers to deposit money in a Government regulated scheme in ‘good’ years that they could draw upon in ‘bad’ years in an official and tax-compliant manner.

“We think that this is the kind of conservative and sensible measure that would allow some degree of financial stability and enable farmers — who need to provide for their retirement in the same way as everyone else — to look at pension provision with some degree of certainty,” Mr Comer said.

Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll

The Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll was designed to provide a robust and accurate snapshot of the attitudes, beliefs and opinions of the farming community about a range of issues, both farming and social. The survey involved 569 interviews with farm dwelling adults in the Republic of Ireland.

Fieldwork was completed by Behaviour & Attitudes over a two-week period between August 13 and 27, with interviewing undertaken onsite by Behaviour & Attitudes interviewers across eight agricultural shows. The sample size is large and the data has a statistical margin of error of +/-4%.

The sampling approach involves a random probability method, with interviews being undertaken with attendees provided they worked and/or lived on a farm. 429 interviews were with farmers themselves, 31 with non family, farm employees, and the balance with spouses (66), most of whom -5 out of 6- personally work on the family farm as well.

All data is copyrighted by the Irish Examiner and Behaviour & Attitudes and should be attributed to this source where quoted.

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