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Farm Incomes Increase in 2010

A preliminary estimate of the Teagasc National Farm Survey results show that average farm income increased by 48% in 2010, bringing the average income figure for the farming sector in 2010 to €18,000.

Speaking at the launch of the results in Dublin, today, Monday, 9 May, Dr Thia Hennessy, Head of the National Farm Survey said: “While the increase in farm incomes of 48% from 2009 to 2010 is substantial, it should be borne in mind that this simply represents a recovery in the sector bringing incomes back in line with those recorded in 2008”. She also stressed that not all farmers experienced such a significant jump in income. “Dairy and tillage farmers benefited significantly from the recovery in global dairy product and grain markets. Incomes on these farms doubled from 2009 to 2010. However, there was little improvement in cattle and sheep incomes in 2010. These drystock farms, that represent the majority of Ireland’s farming population, experienced an increase in income of about 6%,” she said.

“The average sector income of €18,000 represents all systems and sizes of farms, but this average conceals a large variation in income across the different farming enterprises,” said Brian Moran of Teagasc’s National Farm Survey. Average income on the more commercial full-time farms, of which there are about 30,000, was approximately €43,000 in 2010.

The NFS results show that farmers also fell victim to the recession in 2010 as the number of farm households that have an off-farm income declined. For the first time since 2003, the number of farm households where the farmer and/or the spouse works off the farm declined to less than 50%. “This decline in off-farm employment has serious implications for farm households” said Brian Moran. Despite the substantial recovery in farm incomes in 2010, almost 40% of farm households remain in an economically vulnerable position, meaning that the farm business is not economically viable and neither the farmer nor the spouse works outside of the farm.

The average income on dairy farms increased by 92% in 2010 to approximately €47,000. Dairy farmers benefited from an almost 30% increase in milk prices in 2010 and this coupled with only modest increases in costs delivered big income gains. Average income on cattle rearing farms increased by just 7% bringing the average income to €7,000. Cattle farmers continue to be highly reliant on subsidies and in 2010 direct payments contributed over 50% of total farm gross output on these farms. Income on sheep farms increased by 8%, to an average of €11,568 in 2010. Sheep farmers benefited from higher lamb prices as well as the introduction of the new Sheep Grassland Payment. Income increases were highest on tillage farms, with incomes more than doubling to an average of €33,500.