Farm incomes increased by 17% to average €16,000 for last year
Income from farming increased by 17.3 per cent last year according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey, bringing average income from farming to €15,840.
This is the second annual increase in incomes following a period of decline in the late 1990s and last year's figure exceeded the previous high level of €14,326 in 1995.
The income figure was arrived at including all farm costs, machinery, electricity, farm inputs, land rental, veterinary costs etc, but excludes income tax. Farmers contributed 1.1 per cent of total income tax in 2001, an estimated €97 million.
The survey highlighted the difference in income in the various sectors showing that 50 per cent of farmers had an income of less than €6,500, mainly in the dry-stock area. However, the bulk of these had some form of off-farm income even though 12,000 had none.
According to the survey there was an estimated 41,000 full-time farmers where the farmer had no off-farm job. The average income on these farms in 2001 was €32,800, almost identical to the average industrial wage.
The survey showed 12,000 farmers had an income in excess of €40,000 and a further 13,000 earned between €30,000 and €40,000.
Three out of four farmers with incomes in excess of €40,000 were involved in dairying.
While direct payments increased by 16 per cent, their overall contribution to farm income declined from 73 per cent in 2000 to 72 per cent in 2001. In cattle and sheep farming direct payments accounted for over 100 per cent of income, in other words, returns from the market place were less than production costs. Dairying was the highest income earner in 2001, averaging €34,400, an increase of 33per cent on 2000, reflecting increased milk and cattle output and higher direct payments.
Income from tillage, €24,100 per farm, was down by more than 10 per cent, due to the reduced value of output and lower direct payments.
The survey showed that on 45 per cent of all farms the farmer and/or spouse had an off-farm job. On 33 per cent of farms, the job was held by the farmer. These percentages have remained static over the last three years, indicating that off-farm employment has reached a plateau.
When other sources of income, such as pensions and social welfare were included, the survey showed that 36 per cent of farmers were now relying on farming as their sole source of income.