Farming is very much part of the culture of Northern Ireland. Most of us have some connection to someone involved in farming. There is often much hilarity at yokles and other mildly derogatory comments. I confess to a certain wry amusement when some of my assorted in laws all complain about the poverty that farmers face. Farming has, however, suffered a massive financial crisis which has now lasted for many years and has resulted in many having to have additional jobs outside the farm. This pressure has, however, begun to ease a little, more recently. However, the average age of farmers is now 57 and incomes will have to rise considerably in order to persuade more sons (and daughters) to stay on the farm as well as attract new farmers.

One other thing which has not changed is the relative dangerousness of farming. A farmer was killed by a bull on Friday and there have been a number of such tragedies in the recent past. Farming remains a dangerous occupation and if some of the recent increases in food prices results in better incomes for local farmers maybe we should not be too annoyed.

  • Peat Blog

    Whislt I have some sympathy for farmers (and I grew up on a farm) I don’t have much as they own all the land after all! They can sell sites for £150,000 and agricultural land for £30,000 per acre – hardly a poverty situation. The whole political system is also biased in their favour with so many councils (and farming/land-owning local councillors) and incestuaous relationships with political lobby groups and the UFU.

    There are far too many farmers in this country for a proper market for produce to flurish and selling sites for building actually makes it harder for the “real” farmers to expand as the land sells for development value. Ultimately, all of their complaining, together with the almost total opposition to proposals such as the opening of the Newry Canal, the Mourne National Park and PPS14, all mean that they are blindly shooting themselves in the foot. All too predictable.

  • Turgon

    Peat Blog,
    Is agricultural land really worth that much?

    Anyhow there is a problem which seems to be the disparity between income and capital. Although the farms may be worth a fortune the cash cannot be mobilised without selling land especially for sites which helps create “bungalow blight.” If the farmers received more for farming might they be less keen to sell endless sites in the countryside which creates many problems of its own.

  • Jer

    While the price of goods has also increased in the shops its not the farmer who is seeing that increase but rather the middle man. Also while there is an increase in the market price of goods the inputs such as feed and fertiliser are increasing in response to the shortage of wheat and increased cost of oil. There is a hoary old chestnut that CAP keeps food expensive when CAP actually keeps food affordable and stops erratic spikes in the supply.

  • Peat Blog

    How should they receive more for farming? More subsidies or through the sort of market mechanisms that will not develop whilst there are so many farmers owning relatively small farms so that they don’t have the muscle to compete and to negotiate better with the major supermarkets.

    The liquidity or not of their asset base matters little with regards to poverty. They still have significant access to finance (also through boworrings until recently). To see real poverty I’m afraid you have to stick to inner-city areas where there isn’t an ability to sell a site or two.

  • Steve

    for 30,000 pounds you could buy over 60 acres here, of course you wouldnt be considered a farmer here with a mere 60 acres.

    you need atleast 800 acres and to be succesful full time farmer probably a minimum of 3,000 acres and as much as 10,000 acres

    Unless you want potato land then its about 1,000 pounds an acre if its irrigated

  • Frustrated Democrat


    The CAP keeps prices affordable…..just how do you work that one out?

    It wasn’t designed for consumers, it was designed for farmers to give them money for over producing hence the wine lakes and butter mountains that were created and all paid for by the tax payer.

  • Peat Blog

    Steve: I guess you must be in Australia or America or eastern Europe?

    I know several farming families who moved to GB because they could buy two or three times the acerage for the same price as in NI. They prefer to farm rather than sell building sites to artificially keep their business afloat.

    If subsidies were removed and tougher planning policies applied a strong and competitive farming industry would emerge here (also tapping into the diversification potential of tourism etc.).

  • pia lugum

    Going by the activities of some people around Stewartstown there seems to be a small fortune in farming still!

    Mind you, you have to get a part-time Assembly job at 40 odd grand and rent out a wooden hut or two – and I wouldn’t worry about planning permission or rates or any of that nonsense (sic). Add in a pliable party leader with two blind eyes and you could have it made!

  • why????

    If you want to see poverty, look at the African farmers who are pinned in the gutter by western farm subsidies.

  • kaido kiik

    With the size of most of our farms there is no way they can have viability. The processors and retailers now recognise the economies of scale and have built huge empires allowing them to dictate to the farmers. The best that the small to average size farmer in Ireland can do is put himself in hock to one of the above as a contract supplier of pigs or beef – the same way as broiler chicken and eggs are produced and to work at this on a part time basis, this will be much the same as the French farmer except we do not, nor will not, have the benefit or cushion of vibrant local markets.

    The old agage in farming “live poor but die rich”.