The headline numbers in the Irish Farmers Journal Agribusiness report in association with KPMG show the huge addition the industry is to both employment and economic activity here.

However, digging a little deeper into the data, it is easy to see agriculture in Ireland faces significant challenges. The (hopefully) short-term problems with input prices are getting a lot of the attention right now, but looking at the results from the survey accompanying the report we see that around a quarter of respondents see sourcing and retaining labour as a major challenge.

In answer to the question “Do you see career opportunities in agriculture sufficient to attract and retain young people in your area?”, two-thirds of respondents said “no.”

They were not shy about suggesting a range of measures which might help attract people to the industry, including adding more supports for young farmers entering the industry, providing more incentives for the sale of land by older farmers and reducing the regulatory burden on new entrants to the industry.

Fundamentally the responses came down to a simple fact – in order to get young people into farming, they will have to be paid a fair wage and work reasonable hours.

There was a particular focus on earnings, with several people pointing out that incomes on-farm cannot compete with those in the tech sector.

While recent layoffs by some of the biggest players from silicon valley may reduce enthusiasm for that industry, agriculture should not allow itself to rely on others tarnishing their reputations in order to attract young workers.

Many young people want to join the industry. It is up to policymakers to help make sure they can earn a decent wage and have some work-life balance when they do.

The alternative is that there will be no next generations of farmers as agriculture fails to attract young people. A policy failure on this would put the future of the multi-billion euro farming industry at risk.

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Several intels worth of employment and a weighty economic contribution

Agribusiness report shows thriving local economy worried about global events