Farm Safety Week 2018 introduces new peer-to-peer mentoring initiative
Monday marks the start of the sixth annual farm safety week in Ireland and the UK, an initiative organised by the IFA. The message for this year’s campaign is: Your Health. Your Safety. Your Choice.

Farm Safety Week 2018, organised by the IFA, aimed at reducing farm accidents nationwide, is taking a slightly different approach this year.

Rather than focusing on agriculture’s poor safety record and stories of things going wrong, the campaign will highlight stories of when things go right, sharing good practices and demonstrating what "good safety" looks like.

Your Health. Your Safety. Your Choice

Farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland. Last year 24 people lost their lives in farm accidents and 11 people have lost their lives so far in 2018.

Farm Safety Week is supported by a number of agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and members of the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee.

Commenting on the initiative, IFA president Joe Healy said that these “statistics are stark, but statistics don’t tell the whole story – they don’t tell you about the devastating impact a farm fatality has on families and communities; they don’t tell you the impact a farm accident can have on the rest of your life, on your ability to run the farm”.

New IFA farm safety initiative and health and safety appointment

This year the IFA is appointing a farm health and safety executive to implement a pilot farmer-to-farmer peer learning initiative at branch level, to advise farmers about potential risks and educate them to become safety ambassadors within their communities.

The farmers who get involved in the initiative will help to mentor each other by, for example, walking each other’s farms to identify potential risks and visualise how safety works in a real life situation.

This kind of informal learning has been shown to be effective, because the people involved have the potential to adapt the programme to meet their needs and develop their own approaches to improving safety on the farm, according to the association’s president.

Farmers must take responsibility to prioritise safety, especially when working with tractors and machinery, which are the biggest cause of fatal accidents

Under new management

William Shortall has been appointed as IFA health and safety executive to lead farm safety promotion and the new peer-to-peer mentoring initiative.

Shorthall has worked as a regional development officer with the IFA since 2007. He holds a diploma in agricultural engineering and has recently completed a higher diploma in safety, health and welfare at work. He will formally take up the new role on 1 September.

Sharon McGuinness, chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority, believes that “farming is still the most dangerous sector in which to work, although awareness of the issues is high”.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has commented that "there are a lot of risks in farming, but farming doesn’t have to be a dangerous occupation if you are aware of the risks. We have definitely seen an increased awareness of farm safety, thanks to initiatives like Farm Safety Week”.

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Over 400 farmers travel to fourth tyre recycling centre
The fourth tyre recycling centre was at Gortdrum Mines in Monard, Co Tipperary, on Saturday.

A total of 850 tonnes of tyres were collected from 400 farmers in Tipperary on Saturday. The average volume collected at each of the four bring centres now stands at 1,000t.

While this is the final planned disposal day with the Irish Farm Films Producers Group (IFFPG), farmers have called for further "bring centres".

The IFA is calling for a national scheme to be rolled out so that there is one recycling point opened in each county.

IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney said the association has sought a meeting with Minister for State at the Department of Environment Seán Canney.

“We look forward to working with him and his officials to build on the good work so far and ensure we all play our part in keeping the countryside clean,” Cooney said.

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Irish farms among the most valuable in the EU
A combination of high land prices and low debt makes the net value of Irish farms among the highest in Europe.

The average Irish farm has a net value of just under €1m, the fourth highest among the 28 EU member states, a comparison of 2015 farm accounting data by the European Commission has found.

UK farms are the most valuable, with a net worth of €1.8m on average, followed by the Netherlands at €1.6m and farms in Denmark at just over €1m.

By contrast, the average Romanian farm is worth just €33,700, the lowest net worth in the EU.

Irish farms hold on average €1m worth of assets, higher than the EU average of €338,600, but only in sixth position in the EU league. Nearly 90% of those assets are land, with only UK farms locking more of their value into farmland.

Meanwhile Irish farms have very low debt levels, far smaller than the EU average of €54,500. Recent CSO figures show that most farms don't have any debt, and the 35% who do owe an average of €60,000 only. Moreover, Irish farmers have secured long-term loans in much larger proportions than their counterparts in most other EU countries, who are more exposed to the need of constantly refinancing short-term loans.

High solvency

As a result, Irish farms have the lowest liabilities-to-assets ratio, under 3%, described by the Commission as a sign of high solvency. "In the case of Ireland, the low liabilities-to-assets ratio mainly reflects relatively high asset values when compared to low liabilities," analysts wrote.

The high value of Irish farms is not reflected in their income ranking. The average Irish farm's net income was higher than the EU average but ranked in 11th position only, far behind the Dutch leaders.

Irish farmers were also the third most reliant on direct payments for their income, with only Greek and Finnish farmers receiving a larger proportion of their income from the BPS system.

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Comer brothers close in on sale of GAA land
The 103 acres that was bought by the GAA for €2.8m during the boom is nearing a sale for a reported €750,000 or €7,300/ac.

The sale of 103 acres at Mountain South is imminent and at the final stages, the Irish Farmers Journal understands. The land, which was bought by the GAA in the mid-2000's for a reported €2.8m, was guided for €750,000 or €7,300/ac when it re-entered the market in April.

It is believed that it has been almost bought for around the guide of €750,000. Local reports have linked the Comer brothers with the sale. It has been suggested that businessmen are going to turn the farm into a €20m centre of excellence for soccer.

The holding was withdrawn from auction in April and was offered by private treaty since. Handling the sale is Cathal Moran of Cathal Moran and Co Auctioneers, Athenry. He is joint agents with GVA Donal O Buachalla.