Farmers demand ‘safety net’ to halt suicide rise

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MORE farmers are set to die from suicide and machinery-related accidents in 2012 unless the EU establishes a financial safety net for people who make their living from the land.

Those were the stark words of Macosquin farmer, William Taylor, who is Northern Ireland Co-ordinator of Farmers For Action.

The local spokesman for farmers’ rights was speaking this week after demanding face-to-face talks with the Farm Safety Division of Northern Ireland’s Health and Safety Executive, a division of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Farmers For Action say they are alarmed at the growing number of fatalities caused by farmers taking on dangerous outside work to make ends meet and are equally concerned at the increase in those who are driven to take their own lives.

“Farm accidents and fatalities in the UK are increasingly involving elderly farmers - often working along with younger family members at outside jobs in an attempt to support finance their farming,” said Mr. Taylor.

“These are the consequences of agriculture continually being deprived of its fair share of income by large supermarkets, large fast food retailers and large food wholesalers.”

The FFA asked to meet with the Health and Safety Executive after the body’s Farm Division suggested increasing farm inspections to counter the number of accidents and fatalities across the EU.

Mr Taylor explained: “Recent suggestions from HSE for increased farm inspections may help in a small way but will not properly fix the problem. In fact, it may only increase the stress on those nearing the brink.”

Instead, Mr. Taylor’s group is calling on the Executive to use UK wide support to take their case to the EU Commission.

“FFA have recent proof that the EU Commission are not aware of the serious Health, Safety and suicide facts at farm level across the UK, Ireland and the rest of the EU – it is now HSE UK’s job to put the facts in Brussels immediately to influence the new CAP 2013-2019,” he said.

“Commissioner Ciolos’ office has publicly stated that agriculture needs a safety net - HSE must put the case that farmers desperately need a financial safety net in place before safety issues can be properly addressed and point out to the Commission that failure to do so will cost many more lives and continue to drive farmers off the land in droves.

“HSE must make it clear to the Commission that there is no point in them visiting farms to enforce the cost of safety on farmers who in many cases can’t afford to keep their families. They must clarify that when Brussels sorts out the farm income safety net across the EU then they can effectively carry out their duty of enforcing safety on a worthy industry.”

Mr Taylor added: “If HSE would take on this task it would add a lot of weight to the Fairness for Farmers in Europe’s revolutionary Post 2013 CAP proposal which ticks all the boxes and there is certainly no time to waste, thus FFA’s request to meet HSE in Belfast.”