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Tom Murphy
Professional Agricultural
Contractors of Ireland

Deserving of a fair return

Happy new year! Christmas is well and truly behind us now and agricultural contractors and farmers face into another year in the continuing cycle of agricultural life.

Wouldn’t it be great if, like the majority of occupations, they could look forward to a guaranteed and fair return for the incredible amount of time and effort they put into producing food for our tables; time that does not take into account unpaid work carried out by family members throughout the year, especially at harvest time?
As we commence a new year, it is appropriate to remember the 12 people who lost their lives during farming accidents, and the many people who were injured during 2022. They and their families are in our thoughts and remembered in our prayers, together with all those we have lost over the years. For many in the agricultural sector, this can often be a lonely time of year with many feeling isolated.  This is confirmed by recent research presented to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Farm Safety Partnership (funded by the European Innovation Partnership). This report deals with the huge pressures that the majority of farmers face in relation to time management, with 50 per cent of farmers ‘chasing their tails’ to complete jobs and 55 per cent undertaking jobs by themselves that they know they should have help with. All of the above is exacerbated by a severe and continued shortage of labour and of course the prohibitive cost of labour where it is available. 

Nowhere to turn

The report also highlights the general sense that this group, in particular, feel they have nowhere to turn to, to share their problems. Here, we must applaud the Dairygold Co-operative Group, which, in association with the Samaritans, has set up a dedicated phone line to take calls from those working in agriculture that need a shoulder to lean on for advice or help. Staff handling these calls are fully trained and understand the unique pressures facing those working in agriculture. If you need to talk to someone, you can free-call 116 123 (even on a mobile without credit).
It is my belief there is a link between the pressures farmers endure and the number of serious injuries and fatalities experienced in this sector. I also believe that financial worries directly impact farmers’ mental health. These are worries that could be eased if the European Commission and the government would agree a fair farmgate price. For too long, agricultural production has been heavily subsidised not only by the excessive hours that farmers and agricultural contractors work, but by all that free family labour. Meanwhile, it appears that those further up the chain cash in big time by dictating the farmgate price, thus contributing in no small way to the pressures that farmers and indeed contractors are already under.
While I am sure that many of our bureaucrats would disagree with my take on the above, I would remind them that Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies only just help farmers survive, and at at what cost to their health?  I can guarantee no bureaucrat would swap places with a farmer or a contractor.
If they are confident the farmgate price is fair, show us the evidence that has brought them to this conclusion and on which they have based the CAP policy.