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EXCLUSIVE: Farmers want more mental health supports

April 1st, 2024 6:00 AM

By Martin Claffey

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WEST Cork farmers say there aren’t enough supports in place to deal with mental health issues, with one in three farmers feeling isolation is effecting their well-being.

That’s the stark reality revealed in The Southern Star’s 2024 Great West Cork Farming Survey, the results of which were published last week, amid the most challenging period for the sector in decades.

The survey got extensive responses from over 300 West Cork farmers, ranging in age from 18 to 74.

The results are contained in last week’s West Cork Farming supplement and gives an insight into the concerns and frustrations of local farmers including input costs, water quality, and succession.

Almost half of farmers feel isolated in their work, and more than a third said it had an effect on their mental well-being. The survey found a massive 81% said they felt there weren’t enough supports available for farmers dealing with mental health issues.

The survey also highlights the frustration felt by farmers regarding climate action and water quality measures. While most farmers said they are worried about the quality of our water, the overwhelming majority believe farmers were being ‘unfairly blamed’ for the reduction in water quality.

A total of 88% of farmers who took part in the survey believe the Government and EU are not doing enough to protect farm incomes.

Their responses come as the prolonged wet weather and extensive rainfall has left farmers eating into emergency feed supplies.

This week Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue will hold a meeting of the national fodder and food security committee, as the incessant rain has increased pressure on farmers, with many facing significant fodder pressures. This year has continued a pattern of alarmingly high rainfall experienced throughout 2023.

‘It is important that the committee establishes the most up-to-date facts regarding the fodder and feed situation on farms and provides advice to assist farmers through this challenging period,’ the Minister said.

Lobby groups are calling for increased supports for farmers hit by tightening fodder supplies. ‘Farmers have grass in their fields, but they cannot access it because of the wet ground conditions. Tillage farmers cannot get onto their land to plant their crops,’ said IFA president Francie Gorman.

‘Everybody in the sector needs to pull together to alleviate the extreme pressures on farmers at the moment.  The incessant rainfall and shocking ground conditions are adding hugely to costs and stress levels for farmers.’

He called for a co-ordinated response. ‘Banks, processors and input suppliers need to support farmers to carry them through this period,’ said Mr Gorman.

Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan O’Sullivan said farmers are ‘at their wit’s end, and the pressure is mounting’.

For full survey results, read our West Cork Farming magazine

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