The means-testing for farmres in the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) has been criticised by Galway Rural Development CEO Steve Dolan.

The RSS was created in 2004 and provides financial support to low-income farmers who, in return, work for 19.5 hours per week in local communities.

However, Dolan said stringent means-testing for smaller farmers seeking to join the RSS has meant many positions remain unfilled.

“Farmers are means-tested over one arbitrary year, but farmers can have one good year and one bad year, it should be over three or four years,” Dolan said.

In 2017, a rule was brought in whereby farmers could only stay on the scheme for six years in order to allow space for a new cohort to join as the RSS had become over-subscribed.

However, Dolan has concerns that farmers may not join up to another six years once their term is up. “There are no small farmers left anymore and we are actually now undersubscribed,” he added.


Seán Broderick, senior manager of RSS and Tús with Galway Rural Development, said that to join the scheme farmers must prove that they are actively farming.

They must provide a copy of their application for the Basic Payment Scheme for the current year, including a valid herd number and be in receipt of a means-tested social welfare payment, for example, Farm Assist.

“As well as an income support for farmers, the social element is a big thing. Farmers can come out and talk about mart prices and the weather. It plays a huge part,” he said.