PR - Changing Structure And Production Patterns Of Irish Agriculture - Trends And Prospects
For Irish farming the 1990’s can be considered a transition period between two different policy regimes. The period prior to 1990 involved high market price supports whilst the period post 2000 involved moving to decoupled and environmental income support mechanisms. This paper puts the focus on the country’s farm structures over the 1992 to 2006 period. It deals with the distribution of farm sizes, farming systems, the farm labour force, the changing structure of production, farm incomes and other sources of income in supplementing farm household income. The analysis leads to an assessment of the current financial and demographic viability of Irish farms, and also to the development of some future scenarios of change in farm numbers and in their viability status over the next decade. Farm numbers in Ireland will continue to decline whilst the income contribution from off-farm employment to farm household income will increase. The exodus from dairy and sheep production to cattle farming will continue. For the longer run it is clear that the problems and issues arising from poor agricultural structures cannot be solved by agricultural measures alone. Multi-sectoral and complimentary measures within a framework of rural development programmes are required to assist and offer employment to those exiting from farming.
Keywords: Farm Structures/Systems, Farm Incomes, Farm Viability