Farmers in the counties along the border with Northern Ireland are the most reliant on direct payments, the 2019 Teagasc National Farm Survey has found.

The relative importance of direct payments is highest in the border region, at 142% of average family farm income for the region in 2019.

A similar situation is evident in the west, where the average family farm income for the region was just under €16,483. Here, direct payments comprised 104% of income.

The equivalent figure for farms in the midlands region was 87%. Although much lower in percentage terms, direct payments account for a significant proportion of farm income across the other regions also, ranging from 56% to 73% of income in 2019.

Compared with 2018, the relative contribution of direct payments to family farm income in 2019 increased in some regions, but fell in others.

Teagasc noted that regions where dairy is more prevalent tended to see an improvement in 2019 relative to 2018.

Off-farm incomes

The 2019 National Farm Survey found that just over half (52.4%) of farm households had a source of off-farm employment income, a slight increase on the 2018 level.

Dairy farm households were slightly more likely to have an off-farm income within the household, with the proportion of farm spouses employed off-farm generally higher than for other systems.

Teagasc said this reflects the younger demography of these households.

The higher age profile of non-dairy farm households is reflected in the fact that they were, on average, more than twice as likely to be in receipt of a pension.

The proportion of farm households where the spouse was employed off-farm rose slightly to 34%, while the proportion of farmers employed off-farm was slightly less, at 33%.

Farmers with an off-farm job

The off-farm employment situation of farmers differs by system.

The survey found that cattle farmers are more likely to work off-farm than in the case of other systems. Some 40% of beef-finishing farmers had an off-farm job in 2019.

The equivalent figure on suckler farms was also 40%, a decline of three percentage points relative to 2018.

It found that a lower proportion of sheep and tillage farmers worked off-farm in 2019, at 36% and 37% respectively, a slight increase in both cases relative to the 2018 level.

Only 11% of dairy farmers were employed off-farm in 2019.

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