Initiatives to improve farm safety may be included as mandatory measures in Pillar 11 in the upcoming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals, according to Mairead McGuinness, MEP and first vice president of the European Parliament.
While progress on reducing accidents and fatalities has been made in some non-farm sectors, in the agriculture sector this is not the case. Speaking this week in the Parliament, Ms McGuinness said the issue of farm fatalities and accidents is a hidden European problem, exacerbated by the lack of common reporting standards across the EU.
“It is a concern that accurate data is not available in all member states on farm accidents and fatalities. This makes it difficult to compare data and to understand the full picture of what is happening.
“It is fair to say that we know more about animals on farms than about the health and wellbeing of those who look after the animals," she said.
During the farm safety debate, which took place this week, members spoke of knowing people who had been impacted by accidents. Ms McGuinness welcomed comments from European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, who has suggested Member States may, under the new CAP be required to include farm safety measures, including training, as part of their national strategic plans.
Ms McGuinness said it is unacceptable that farmers risk life and limb in carrying out their daily tasks. Huge efforts are being made in Ireland to address the issue with the cooperation of the farm organisations – but more needs to be done, she said.
“Commissioner Hogan said that, while there is no evidence that low incomes are contributing to fatalities and accidents, he accepts that there is a link and I believe that pressure on farmers to do more for less and to farm alone and under pressure leads to situations which may result in accidents occurring,” the MEP said.
During the debate concerns were also expressed about the mental health of farmers and the high level of suicides among farmers in some member states.