Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A humiliating experience for Northern Ireland farmers

A relative alerted me to this rather sad story of these Northern Ireland farmers queuing up for a 'first come, first served' 5000 pound EU modernisation grant this week.
The grants are designed to improve animal welfare and and farm efficiency but there is not enough to go around with only 1200 farmers receiving the grants.
Those that could not queue, cap in hand, missed out, although some postal applications were allowed.
Having lived in Northern Ireland for several months in 2007 I witnessed first hand the state of the farming industry. Dairy farms were small and uneconomical and these grants serve as a lifeline to many - but one has to ask how far that lifeline should be extended.
Farmers that were in the queue told the BBC that they would use the grants to buy ridiculous items such as cow mattresses and robotic floor cleaners. How these items are going to make farms more profitable is debatable.
The problem in Northern Ireland is that land is very expensive and farmers cannot afford to expand. Therefore they are stuck with these small uneconomical landholdings, and welfare handouts from the EU.
The Irish public has some sympathy for farmers but in these hard times that sympathy may turn to anger.
Any way you look at it, the process of queuing for money must have been a humiliating experience.


Mark Hubbard said...

Why, in Ireland (and same in UK and Europe), when farm land is uneconomic like this, does it not therefore correct in value in the market place? As it is about to do in New Zealand.

Farmgirl said...

Good question Mark,
There appears to be a lot less land available if you take into account the population base and what is there is held on to by farming families. I recall a farmer telling me that he had been waiting for 20 years to buy the field next door to farm land is highly prized. Also subsidies tend to keep farmers on land even though they may not be what we term productive - therefored the subsidies mask the market place value somewhat.