There has been a 33% decrease in the number of farmers receiving Farm Assist over the past five years, figures from the Department of Social Protection show.

At the end of 2019, 5,971 farmers were paid the support, dropping to 3,985 at the close of last year.

This represents a decrease of 1,986 farmers.

Outlining the figures in response to a parliamentary question, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said she attributes the drop to an ageing population in farming.

“The numbers on the scheme are declining, primarily as a result of the ageing profile of the customers. Claimants tend to exit the scheme straight to a pension scheme," said Minister Humphreys.

“Farm Assist claimants can also move to the Rural Social Scheme, which provides a supplementary income for low-income farmers aged 25 years or over,” she added.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) deputy president Alice Doyle called in recent months for a full reassessment of the means testing requirement for both Farm Assist and the Rural Social Scheme.

At the time, she said this would ensure a fairer approach for people to access these schemes.

Farm Assist is a means-tested income support specifically for farmers on low incomes.


From a county-by-county breakdown of Farm Assist recipients, a west-east divide is evident.

Far more farmers were in receipt of Farm Assist on the western seaboard than in the east of the country.

Co Donegal was the county with the largest number of farmers in receipt of the support at the end of 2023 at 907.

It was followed by Co Mayo with 750 farmers being paid Farm Assist and some 324 in Galway at the close of last year.

Both Kerry and Cork had 272 farmers receiving the support.

On the other side, Kildare was the county with the least amount of Farm Assist recipients in December 2023 at 11.

Co Wicklow had the second-lowest number of farmers being paid by the scheme at 18, followed by 25 in Co Meath.