According to a 2021 annual farm report conducted by ifac, Ireland’s farming, food, and agribusiness professional services firm, the increasing role of technology in farming is evident.
Over 70% of farmers say they want online buying and selling in the marts to continue post-pandemic.
With 1,700 farmers across the country participating in the survey, it has revealed the true impact of COVID-19 on the farming community.
These include the accelerated adoption of technology on the farm to the rise in social isolation and community engagement loss.
Seven out of eight (86%) farmers say broadband is now essential, making the rollout of rural broadband an urgent requirement across the country for business tasks, including banking.
One in two (52%) farmers use herd and breeding software on their farms.
When it comes to farmer well-being, three in four (75%) say they will take the COVID-19 vaccine (with 19% unsure and 6% not planning to take a vaccine), and almost a third (31%) of farmers risk burnout by not taking a holiday (for at least a week) in the last three years or more.
Also, three in four (75%) say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their social life. Two out of five (42%) say they do not know who to call for support.
The survey also highlights the opportunities for farmers concerning their preparation for the future.
For example, for the third year in a row, the survey results indicate that farmers of all ages are continuing to put off succession planning; less than a quarter (24%) have identified a future successor, with almost one in three (31%) saying their farm business is not viable enough.
Additionally, three out of five (58%) don’t complete any budgets or cash flows; of those who employ non-family farm labour, only 21% have written contracts of employment in place, and only 17% have an employee handbook; and less than a quarter (24%) know how much they need to have in their pension to provide a €200 per week income from the age of 65.
Other key takeaways from 2021 annual farm report, Growing Your Future, include:
- Two out of 5 (40%) don’t have a will in place
- 81% say they will still be farming in 5 years (12% don’t know).
As an employer:
- Over 20% say it is hard to find people with the right skills.
Sector sentiments for Irish farming
- 3 out of 4 dairy farmers have a positive outlook for their sector. However, only 2 out of 5 farmers have a positive outlook in other farming sectors;
- Only 1 out of 4 dairy farmers believe that their farm is not providing sufficient income to support their family;
- 9 out of 10 beef farmers believe their farm isn’t providing sufficient income to support their family;
- 84% will maintain or increase herd numbers over the next three years;
- Only 1 in 5 (21%) say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their farm income;
- Besides, only 5% of farmers feel that Brexit will have no impact on the farming sector.
Farmers slow to act in relation to succession planning
John Donoghue, Chief Executive of ifac, said: “Like many industries, the farming community have had to adjust to the challenges and changes, and our annual Farm Report shows just how Irish farmers have been affected. The adoption of technology has accelerated with tech now playing an increasingly important role in farm management.”
“While less than a quarter of farmers say the pandemic has negatively impacted their farm income, and some have even been able to diversify their revenue streams during COVID, the findings also shine a stark light on the community disengagement and social isolation that many farmers are feeling all across the country.”
“There is still a lot of uncertainty about the future of farming and concerns about the cost of COVID, the impact of Brexit on the wider economy, and the costs associated with tackling climate change weigh heavily on the minds of Irish farmers.”
“Despite almost a third of Irish farmers saying they want to remain involved in the farm after retirement, for the third year in a row, our survey shows that farmers are slow to act in relation to succession planning – something necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of rural Ireland.”
However, he added, there is also evidence of positivity and resilience in Irish farming. 81% of survey respondents said they will still be farming in three years.
“The big opportunity for Irish farmers to enhance their profitability and secure their futures is planning. From budgeting and succession planning to structure reviews and looking after their farm team – all areas our team of financial experts is well-placed to support and advise on.”