Sunday, 1 March 2015

Ageism In The Farmyard And The Unfairness Of C.A.P. (Feel Like Selling Up.)

There are 4000 farmers who get no farm payments in Ireland.  There are farmers who get king ransoms  in payments, smallholders who get nothing and small farmers who get ("little old me") their payments in hundreds rather than thousands.  Some people will argue that farmers shouldn't get any entitlements at all.

Any road.  Like thousands of other farmers I got a letter this week:  GUIDE TO BASIC PAYMENT SCHEME (BPS) ENTITLEMENTS 2015-2019.  Like a lot of smallholders and farmers.  We thought that there was going to be a uniform even payment and we would get a minimum of 5000 Euros.   Instead we are going to be thirty Euros better off a year.  THIRTY Euros for 5 years! A new fencer battery and a bag of beef nuts whoopee!

To put the tin hat on it.  The Irish Agricultural  Department is launching a "Young Farmer's" scheme.  Farmer's have to be under 40 to join the scheme and be allocated free entitlements and payments from the 'National Reserve'.  Good luck to the young farmer's but why is it only for people under forty years of age?  Surely this is ageist and should not be allowed?  A lot of farmer's like my self are in their forties or fifties when the farm is transferred into their name.

I have said it before on this blog.  We farm for sentiment.  My dad's family have been on this land for at least two hundred years.  Will we be the last?  Should we rent out the farm for 200 Euros an acre and just live in the house?  Or should we just sell up and go and live somewhere else?

I personally think the EEC want to make it impossible for smallholders or "hobby farmers" to make a living in the countryside.  Here in rural Ireland the countryside is eerily quiet most days apart from silage making and the spreading of slurry.  Most people have to travel miles to find work or rely on welfare benefits.  The countryside is changing but not for the better.  I don't like ageism or inequality for farmers.  Do you?

32 comments:

  1. Things like this are always geared to the big farms. It makes the big farms bigger and more money and then runs the little ones out of business. The government would be happier if just a few big farms had all the land, that would suit their purpose much better.

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  2. Totally agree with you Kev. It's very difficult for a smallholder to make a living in the countryside. I have heard of people moving to the countryside and being unable to obtain an herd number. Is the countryside just going to be for big farmers and dwellings for holiday homes and weekenders? Thanks!

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  3. That is rubbish Dave. Where we live we have quite a few small farms, a couple specialize in Highland cattle and sell their meat in various forms. We also have a couple that have dairy herds, these two do struggle as people buy from the supermarkets and they get paid chuff all. I read a recent report that said people now pay more for bottled water than milk, it's barmy !!
    Twiggy

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  4. Hi Twiggy. I believe Dairy farmers here in Ireland have been paid 21 Cents a litre for milk this year and they want 27 Cents a litre. I think it's very difficult to make a living when the powers that be keep moving the goal posts. CAP was supposed to subsidize farmers income. But it seems to only help the big farmers. A lot of smallholders don't even break even when they take into account replacing cattle, insurance, feed, fertilizer and vet bills. Thanks!

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  5. We all feel like that from time to time in farming Dave, don't give up, at least not when feeling like this. If there is a right time to give up it will present itself to you in a different way, not when you're feeling angry. I often felt that we were unloved by the whole world but then my brothers and mother, who knew nothing else, and would take it on the chin and shrug and get on with it. We never did much more than break even and that was on paper, in reality they never ever seemed to have any money between them. That's just the way it is. Rachel

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  6. Thanks Rachel. I thought of your comment about your family farm when I was writing this. My dad left Ireland for England in the 'Black fiftes' He was only 17 and there was nothing for him in rural Ireland. My grandfather never recieved any subsidies. They set a field with vegetables, kept 7 cows, milked by hand and his neighbour helped him make the loose hay and my grandfather would return the favour and no money was exchanged. My mother used to say: "more wants more". Like you say Rachel. That's jut the way it is. Thanks!

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  7. It must be a hard path sometimes dave.........especially in the cold wet winter

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  8. Hi John. Have you been getting our rain and gales in Wales? I would use the idiom: "flogging a dead horse" to describe smallholding farming.

    Why is a farmer really good at his job? Because he's always outstanding in his field!

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  9. Agree with Kev Alviti, it just seems like there's a hidden agenda to get small farmers off the land and into the hands of a few huge units.

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  10. I don't think it's just small farmers, Cumbrian. It's very difficult for anybody to make a living in the countryside these days. If people don't have the income they won't (can't) pay to have jobs done. They can't afford to live in the country and have to move to the big towns and cities or even emigrate. Thanks!

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  11. There is so much unfairness to the working people from those who sit with high salaries in cosy offices, spending time making rules so that they can earn their salary, rules which just make it harder for us working people, especially those on the land....at least that is what it feels like.

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  12. I don't know how ageism and inequality is allowed in this day and age, Vera. I know it's geeting more and more difficult for country dwellers/smallholders to make a living. I can understand why people sell up and move away from the country. I find it very depressing and can't say we are happy any more. We smallholders are powerless. Thanks!

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  13. I could go one about this for hours. My Family did at the weekend. My cousin the Farmer is training as a plumber. *shakes head*. There is no money in farming so little you cant even keep a family of 3 on the money. Even with no mortgage. I cant work out how they can optimise any more output. We have thought about artisan cheese, but to sell you have to have a building that meets code, lots of ££££.

    We have thought about selling direct to the public, again you then have to pasteurise, a specialist building and equipment more £££££.

    My cousin said he can hold on for maybe 2 years, after that he cant do it. so we have to have something that crops or overhauls in 2 years and pulls a profit that is more than just under minimum wage for them.

    What have we come up with... well my BiL and 2 other my other cousins are thinking we can raise the money for new poly tunnels and we start growing plants in an area that he can rent to my BiL and they can start a plant nursery. And then see about selling at Farmers Markets or even if they could get a larger garden centre company interested. Direct at farmers markets will make the most money.

    So we have to look into the legal side of it, access over the land and if there are problems with the dairy who take the milk. if we need any change of use with the local council. do we need any acreage around the outside of the poly tunnels... because of the cows. it is a mine field of ifs and buts. Desperate to keep the farm in the family.

    its one of those things that you could go on and on about in the pub and never get an answer as to how to diversify enough to keep your head above the water line.

    One for you though Dave, could you do veg boxes?

    lol My nephew makes a killing selling his seedlings at the car boot in March April and May. I dont know if people buy them because he is really funny for an 8 year old and smarms the old ladies or if they truly want the plants. He said he made £40 one day. some of those were house plants that he had propagated in the conservatory.

    Long comment. sorry.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Sol. An agricultural consultant once told me that a farmer would need to keep sixty cattle to make a living. I think it's sad that farmers have to think about off farm work and farm diversification. If smallholders had bigger entitlements (say 5000) they would have money to pay for running the farm and also money would be going to people who worked or had shops in the community. You need money to make money. I think tat's why so many people leave the countryside and find work in the towns and cities.

      I don't if veg boxes would work. Have you seen how much veg is in Aldi? Carrots are 39 Cents along with other vegetables.

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  14. It is the attitude of all governments. Force the small farmer and smallholder out so that control is in the hands of the few.
    Don't give up yet Dave! We must accept that we are only ever going to just get by, but if, unlike many, you are where you want to be, doing what you want to do. Think long!

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    1. Yes you are right, Irene. Even farmer's unions seem to favour the big farmer's.

      I won't give up this year. Every year we say: "we'll give it another year."

      It annoys me when farmer's ask me to rent them our land. I don't ask them for their land. Thanks for your very wise comment.

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  15. Unfortunately Dave there is not a level playing field, just about every country in the world subsidise farming to some degree, Australia and New Zealand farmers receive the least yet are deemed to be the most successful. If all farming subsides world wide were removed it would make things more equal. Subsidies may give a farmer an income but that is paid for by the tax payer, it also makes food too cheap. Food prices should reflect production costs, farmers should receive a fair price for their products, not a distorted price.
    It is quite possible to make a living from a small farm or smallholding but you have to diversify.
    There is a new to farming couple not too far from here who have just forty acres, they have gone for heritage breeds of animals and local sales, they have already had to open a small shop as well as doing the farmers market.
    Other friends of our specialise in growing plug plants, mainly veg and herbs and selling bunches of cottage flowers during the summer, they also do well. Someone else we know set up a herb plant nursery, on the worst land you can imagine, he makes a lot of money from this enterprise.
    We, when we were farming had just 18 acres but we made a very good living from it by specialising in Organic Eggs, no grants of any sort are available for this.
    It is possible Dave, but you have to have a USB.

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    1. Hi Anne.

      I think subsidize farming was brought into to put an end to the wine lakes and beef mountains caused by over production.

      I have read that forty percent of the people who move to the countryside move back to the towns because they can't make a living. I think if smallholders had a fair crack of the entitlement whip. It would help them establish farm diversity schemes like tourism or organic farming..?

      What is a USB Anne? Thanks for your thoughts!

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    2. USP, Unique selling point. Such as Dexter beef, Jacob lamb and Tamworth or Gloucester old spot pork.

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    3. Unique selling point. Must remember that. There is a man who comes down to Bantry from Dingle selling his Dexter beef.

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    1. I do agree with you about the subsidies Anne, but there are just too many hoops for smallholders and small farmers to jump through now. The expense involved in fulfilling criteria is a step beyond a lot of folk. The main problem is that governments no longer associate farming with real food, it is just consumerism and the big boys put money into the coffers. Also, the public in general don't seem to care about the quality of their food or think about how much it costs to produce, as long as they get it cheaply. I think that our whole perception of food production needs to take several jumps back.
      Pleased you are giving it another year Dave. As always there is a lot of good food (sorry) for thought from Anne. I think that diversity is the only way forward. There are those out there who want quality and will pay a realistic price.

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    2. I looked into going organic Irene and paid an organic adviser to walk the farm and was told we would have to pay for an organic conversion plan. They also told me my own cattle could not convert to organic and we would have to source organic cattle from organic farms. These all seemed very expensive and I was told by cattle dealers and organic farmers that a lot of the organic cattle ended up being sold at conventional marts down here in West Cork. We came to the conclusion that you need money to be organic and there is too much red tape. However I do think organic (we have bought) is superb and organic principles for animal care are the best. There was talk of a German system of farmers being paid for their animal welfare rather than for headage or acreage. It would put an end to live exports and the EEC subzidizing the boats to Libya..?

      I farm mainly for sentiment Irene. Thanks for your thoughts!

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    3. Dave you can draw up your own conversion plan, you do have to attend an organic course which is a 25 hour course, during this course is the best time to draw up your plan, you no longer have to submit a business plan. If you Google converting to organic farming it should come up with a link to Organic Trust.ie that gives you a very brief outline, then give Helen a ring, she is the coordinator of Organic Trust , she will answer questions you might have and send you out a information pack which is free. If you are thinking of converting I think you have to get your application in by April to avail of the conversion grants which are available. The rules have changed over the last few years but I think you can still buy in conventional very young stock to bring on as breeding stock, but those animals will not be organic only the off spring.
      If you stuck with cattle you would probably save money as organic is all about grass fed animals and grass is the cheapest way to feed an animal especially one designed to eat grass not grain.
      Take yourself down to the English Market in Cork city, speak to relevant stall holders, see if you could establish your market there, ask what demand there might be for speciality meats such as the heritage breeds.
      We never had a problem with red tape from Organic Trust, but the departments red tape was horrendous and mainly a load of old rubbish.

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    4. Thanks Anne for the organic advice. We put a slatted tank in the other year for ease and storage of cow slurry. Don't think they allow slats on organic farms?

      My dairy reared calves look like we will make a decent return when we sell them soon. Think this may be the way forward instead of rearing beef weanlings. Thanks for the advice Anne!

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    5. Is the whole shed slatted Dave or just the feeding area?

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    6. Yes the whole of the old shed is slatted for the tank Anne. You can't have straw bedding near a tank can you? It won't agitate when you want to pay somebody to put the slurry out and save on bag manure and use the slurry to grow hay or silage. thanks!

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  17. Was it always your intention to take over the family farm Dave?

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    1. I always wanted to live here in Ireland, Irene. When I lived in England over twenty years a go I read Self Suffiency: John and Sally Seymour. Then i rented a few allotments and really wanted to live on a smallholding. My late uncle asked us to live with him and we have been here fourteen years. We miss going to car boot sales every week, real ales, watching a football team, rock concerts, public transport, big supermarkets and the English counties.

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    2. Understand the things that you miss, when in France we also missed charity shops and proper sausages.
      John Seymour was/is the god of smallholdings/self sufficiency but we can't live up to his ethos today, too much red tape and EU interference., woosy councils and people who haven't a clue.
      You learn' t about cattle and crops from your uncle then? Hope that you don't mind my asking, I am really interested as to how people end up doing what they do.

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  18. I wish we could pick up the farm and put it back down in Cornwall, Wales or Hereforshire Irene. We keep dreaming of moving to Portugal. But I think the language and the lack of work (like most rural areas) would be a big problem.

    My uncle did tell us a lot about farming and so did my dad. I have read a lot and you learn a lot from vets and local farmers when you are making silage and handling cattle when they are ill or dosing them...

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  19. I would dearly love to go home to Wales.

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