Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) farm business chair Rosemary McDonagh said that from a health and safety point of view, increasing the pension age is not a good idea and that it could lead to increased farm accidents.

The Commission on Pensions recommended this week that there be no change to the pension age of 66 until 2028 and to eventually increase it to 68 by 2039.

"Farming is a very manual type of work and farmers are out in all kind of weather elements 24/7, all year round," she said.

"I think from the point of view of people with arthritis and rheumatism by pushing out the retirement age, they may not be physically able to work.

Age profile

"It will lead to increased health and safety issues and increased farm accidents."

McDonagh said that the age demographic in farming is old enough as it is, without making it any older.

"We are trying to encourage the passing on of farms to the young trained farmer."

She said that it is much harder to get the next generation to work on the farm if they have already gone off and got a job for themselves.

"They don't want to double-job," she said.

This goes against trying to encourage the timely transfer of farms to younger farmers

McDonagh argued that increasing the pension ages will ultimately lead to "farmers putting off passing over the farm".

"This goes against trying to encourage the timely transfer of farms to younger farmers," she said.

IFA farm family chair Alice Doyle welcomed the pension age remaining at 66 until 2028, but was concerned about the increase that will face farmers down the line.

"We are discovering that as farmers get older, they are much more likely to be involved in accidents. It is a very physically demanding profession.

"It's one thing to be in an office at 66, but when you are out physically labouring, your capacity is reduced and therefore an increase in accidents occur.

"In a recent report, it [was found] that there have been 100 fatalities on farms since 2016 and, of that, 58% of them were farmers over the age of 65," Doyle told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Doyle said that the IFA is trying to get older generation farmers to move out of farming, but they will not do this unless they have financial security.

"The only financial security that most of them have is their pension," she said, adding that most of these farmers don’t have a private pension fund because they are so expensive.

Young entrants

From a farm business point of view, Doyle said she is worried that the number of young entrants in farming will reduce if the pension age keeps being pushed out.

"We do understand the financial demand of the pension on the country, but for the majority of farmers the pension is the only financial security they have," said Doyle.

In conclusion, Doyle said that it’s very hard to predict what farming is going to be like in 17 years’ time in 2039, when the changes are set to happen.

"However, in the next couple of years, it is very important that the pension age stays where it's at, until we see what way things will be, but, ultimately, from a farming point of view, we would be looking for it to be staying as low as possible," she said.