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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Less than 4% of TAMS went to female farmers

According to figures obtained by the Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group (WASG), less than 4% of TAMS payments went to female farmers.

The newly formed group, made up of representatives from all farm organisations, has called on Minister Charlie McConalogue to act on its CAP submission and “tackle” inclusivity and the gender balance in Irish agriculture.

The group said the low take-up by female farmers is a “worrying signal” for the future viability of female-run farms, where already just 12% of farmers are women.

Out of 20,612 payments since 2016, just 751 were made to women. In addition, just 97 of those payments were made to women under 35 years of age.

KT scheme

Figures the group secured also show a low level of female participants in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) Scheme.

For example, just three and seven women took part in KT groups in Longford and Cavan, respectively.

A sector breakdown further shows that just 565 women – out of 3,567 overall participants – signed up to dairy KT groups. 15 counties did not have any groups with women in dairy groups.

Inclusivity issue

Chair of the group Hannah Quinn-Mulligan said:

“The aim of the group is to ensure that women across rural Ireland receive the official recognition for the work they do on farms and that young women feel they have prospects inside the farm gate they call home.”

“Agriculture is one of Ireland’s most valuable industries, and family farms are the lifeblood of rural Ireland.”

“Unfortunately, research shows there is an inclusivity issue where the work of women on farms is not officially recognised, and young women are less likely to be considered or encouraged to be farm successors.”

“Investment in machinery, equipment and sheds are seen as significant indicators that a sector is thriving and future-proofing, but this does not seem to be the case for female farmers.”

She added that CSO figures show that up to a quarter of work done on farms is done in part or fully by women.

However, she said female farm ownership and partnership figures do not match this.

WASG comprises of representatives from farm organisations and bodies:
  • The Irish Farmers Association (IFA);
  • Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA);
  • Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA);
  • Macra na Feirme;
  • Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA);
  • Irish Organic Association (IOA);
  • South East Women in Farming;
  • West Women in Farming.

Caroline Farrell of the IFA said the organisation was, “100% behind the stakeholder group and endeavour to improve the profile of women in farming”.

Alter traditional mindset of farmers

Vanessa Kiely O’Connor of the ICMSA highlighted the need to alter the traditional mindset of farmers.

“The physical obstacles that prevented women from farming are a thing of the past. Modern machinery and technology hve created an opportunity for all genders to farm. The last obstacle is to purge the mindset that it’s a male-oriented career,” she said.

She also pointed out that if farmers were concerned about a woman inheriting a farm and losing the ‘family name’ if she married, that it was 2021, and there should be no issue with women keeping their maiden names.

Recognition for women in agriculture

Macra na Feirme representative Louise Crowley, also took a strong position on the subject.

“Macra na Feirme strive to better understand and combat the gender imbalances currently found in the agriculture industry.”

“Almost every farm in Ireland has a woman involved in some way, shape or form. These women must first be recognised. This recognition will be one of the steps to encouraging more women and especially young women into a career in farming,” she said.

Farm policy decision-making

The ICSA’s Mona O’Donoghue-Concannon pointed out that female leadership roles needed to be encouraged.

“ICSA is always thriving for inclusion of women in farm policy decision-making and encouraging leadership skills development in farm organisation by encouraging and mentoring the skilled people already involved in the industry on a daily basis. Through CAP and the new group, greater heights will be reached,” she said.

Policy dialogue

Sharon Cosgrove of the INHFA, “The INHFA are delighted to be involved in the establishment of the Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group and work to address the gender imbalance in the agricultural sector.”

“It is vital the significant role played by women in agriculture is recognised and financially rewarded to ensure the viability of the sector.”

Diversity, inclusion and strong leadership 

Gillian Westbrook, CEO of the Irish Organic Association (IOA), stated: “The IOA is delighted to be directly involved in the establishment of this group, as an organisation approximately 25% of our licenced organic operators are women, and this has been hugely positive for the development and growth of the sector in recent years.”

“Agriculture faces challenges on so many levels. We need to ensure that women engage in policy dialogue across all platforms to enhance and maintain strong rural communities.

“As a female CEO working in agriculture, I welcome the dynamic approach outlined by the stakeholders in this group.”

“Creating a strong agricultural sector necessitates that inclusion, diversity and strong leadership are displayed at all levels, and I look forward to working in this context under the next CAP Strategic Plan.”

WASG’s submission

The DAFM released figures through a Freedom of Information request. WASG pointed out that TAMS and KT are key areas it was tackling in its CAP submission to the department.

The group has made its submission on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2023 – 2027 with a core focus on the creation of practical, inclusive policies to tackle gender balance in Irish agriculture.

Key policy areas in Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group CAP submission:
  • The group expects the DAFM to lead the charge in addressing gender balance and set a target of going from the current 12% of farmers being female to 25% by 2030.
  • Figures secured under Freedom of Information (FOI) by the group shows that less than 4% of the multi-million-euro Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) payments were made to women. Therefore, the group proposes a 60% TAMS grant for all female farmers and joint partnerships with a named female partner.
  • Figures secured under FOI show that just 3,173 (out of 19,576 applicants) took part in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) scheme. It proposed that female-only KT groups should be formed in the next CAP. Also, it proposed that groups with at least three female members should receive a top-up per participant.
  • Partnership Tax Credit – to work along similar lines to the current Succession Tax Credit except where a named female partner is added to the farm, the farm shall receive a €5,000/year tax credit over a five-year period. The partnership must have at least two members and the incoming female partner does not have to be a blood relative to allow for daughters-in-law, wives, or partners to join.
  • The DAFM must commit to plan and fund a national women in agriculture dialogue as set out under Food Vision 2030.
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