Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Cavan-Monaghan Cllr. Niamh Smyth has called for new measures to be introduced to encourage more people into agriculture and farming. The most up to date data reveals that the average age of farmers is increasing and now stands at 54. In fact, more than half of all farm holders in 2010 were 55 or older.
Cllr. Smyth commented, “Agriculture and farming is one of our most important industries, both from an indigenous and export perspective. The ageing population amongst the farming community is a concern and we need to encourage more young people into the sector. I know a number of farming families who are worried about the future of their farms because their children do not want to take over. We need to remove some of the barriers for young people and actively encourage them to consider agriculture as a career.
“One of the measures that could be explored is a subsidy for students to cover some or all of their college registration fees. Many students are put off the idea of third level education because of the high cost of fees, combined with the expense of living away from home. If we could minimise the cost of college, it would remove one of the barriers to education that rural families face.
“This is just one proposal which could be examined to increase participation rates among younger farmers. Unless we have active youth participation in our agriculture and farming sector, we could be facing the possibility of an industry under threat”.