Farming

Surging input costs a serious concern for more than 60% of farmers

Surging input costs represent a serious concern for Irish farmers, according to the Ifac Irish Farm Report 2022. More than 60% of those surveyed admitted that they are worried about the impacts of such costs on all the primary farm inputs including fertiliser, feed and energy.

The report, entitled ‘Innovators – farmers embracing change’, was published today (Thursday, April 21). It contains Ifac’s fourth annual Irish farm survey, conducted across all sectors and aspects of farming, and involving 860 participating farmers.

The survey provides a great insight into the opportunities and the challenges that farmers are facing right now.

This includes the positive role of technology in increasing farm efficiencies and reducing the physical demands for employees; the universal challenge of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs); and farmers being able to find the time to tackle financial planning to protect their families and farms for the future.

Finding and retaining employees has become a challenge for many farmers, with 21% saying it’s a big concern, particularly in the dairy sector.

One in three beef farmers are struggling to balance farming with their off-farm job and, across the board, 77% of farmers say they would hire non-EU people with the right skills.

With the United Nations warning of a climate tipping point on emissions, encouragingly, farmers are not shying away from sustainability or the gravity of the environmental challenges ahead, the report found.

While some are, understandably, concerned about the additional cost burden (38%) and even more (40%) believe that other sectors need to play their part too, 94% of farmers believe in the dire need to reduce GHGs on farms.

Also, as determined innovators, 97% of farmers are open to incorporating renewable energy on their farms, yet a third don’t know where to start, demonstrating a sizeable opportunity for Irish farmers.

The survey also highlights for a fourth consistent year in a row that financial planning, in particular succession planning, is a topic that still requires focus.

While action has been taken and, reassuringly, the numbers have doubled since 2019, two thirds (67%) of Irish farming families have yet to start their succession plans.

Other key takeaways

Overall outlook

  • 58% have a positive outlook on farming for 2022.

Financial planning

  • Concerning succession, one in five says the lifestyle is not appealing enough for the next generation (up from 16% in 2021).
  • Almost half (47%) of Irish farmers don’t have a will.
  • Only 17% have an Enduring Power of Attorney (22% don’t know what it is).
  • One in five has no life cover.
  • One in three is concerned about saving for retirement, and 25% worry about saving for education.

Sustainability

  • 42% of farmers would consider organics.
  • 40% of farmers believe changing how people value food would help tackle climate change, while 36% believe educating consumers on how food is produced would help.

Technology

  • 52% say cost is the biggest barrier to adopting technology.
  • 32% use technology to increase farm efficiencies.
  • 21% use technology to reduce the physical burden on employees.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said input costs will be a major challenge to profitability for farmers.

“While we are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine, both I and my department, just like Ifac, are working to support farm families and their businesses. This includes two separate support packages for the pig sector; a direct aid for the horticulture sector; and the Tillage Incentive Scheme with a €12-million budget.

“The challenge now facing all of us in society, including farmers, to reduce emissions is vast and, in line with the targets for agriculture in the Climate Action Plan, I am very encouraged to see that 94% of Irish farmers say reducing GHGs is important.

“Also, resilience is at the core of our farming sector and it’s heartening to see that more Irish farmers than last year have a positive outlook for the future,” he said.

Chief executive of Ifac, John Donoghue, added:

“As Covid-19 begins to dissipate, any anticipated relief has been overshadowed as other significant challenges have emerged. Rising costs are now the biggest challenge facing farmers, heightened by escalating prices and supply shortages because of the tragic and needless events in Ukraine.

“In parallel, finding and retaining employees has become a big concern for many, particularly in the dairy sector, and succession planning remains a recurring theme year after year that still requires urgent focus.

“However, overall, positivity still abounds among Irish farmers – almost 60% have a positive outlook on farming for 2022,” the Ifac chief executive said.

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