Farm Assist is a means-tested payment for low income farmers. To qualify for Farm Assist, you must be a farmer, farming land in the State, aged between 18 and 66 and satisfy a means test.
You are considered a farmer if you farm land that you own or lease and that you use for the purpose of husbandry. Husbandry means working the land with the aim of taking produce from the land.
There is a similar social welfare payment for fishermen and women called Fish Assist.
From 8 March 2017, farm income and other income from off-farm self-employment will be assessed at 70% (down from 100%), with additional annual disregards of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and other children. (The disregards for dependent children are applied first and 70% of the balance is assessed.)
The means test takes account of virtually every form of income but assesses it in different ways and disregards various amounts. Different rules apply to income from farming and other forms of self-employment, income from certain schemes such as the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS), income from employment and income from property and capital.
Your income from farming is assessed as gross income that you, your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant may be expected to receive minus any expenses you incur to earn that income. Your income from the previous 12 months is used to assess your likely future earnings. However it is not simply assumed that your previous year’s earnings will be repeated the following year as farmers can have significant variations in income from year to year.
When you apply for Farm Assist, a social welfare inspector will call to see you and ask to see various documents. For example, accounts prepared for tax purposes, creamery returns, cattle registration cards, details of headage payments and area aid. They will also want information on the sale of crops, cattle, milk and other produce. The inspector will then assess the costs actually and necessarily incurred in connection with the running of the farm. These costs may include rent, annuities, the cost of inputs like feed and fertiliser and the depreciation of farm machinery. Labour costs are taken into account, with the exception of the labour of the farmer and their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. You are entitled to receive a copy of this farm income calculation.
If you or your spouse, cohabitant or civil partner has other income from self-employment, this is also assessed, taking into account the costs incurred in the business. The income from farming and other forms of self-employment is added together and the costs involved are deducted. From 3 April 2013 100% of your means from self-employment (with no disregards for dependent children) are assessed.
You may be liable to pay Class S contributions on your income from self-employment.
Some but not all of the payments received under the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS), the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) or the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) scheme are assessed.
Payments under the new Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) are treated in the same way and the same disregards apply.
If you have leased your milk quota, the income from the leasing is assessed in full. It is not included in the assessment of income from farming as described above. The same applies to income earned from the leasing of land. If you have leased all of your land, you are not eligible for Farm Assist.
Your income from a job is assessed. Your assessable weekly earnings (gross income less PRSI, union dues and superannuation fees) are usually assessed on the basis of the 13 weeks before you claim. Not all of your income is taken into account. €20 per day (up to a maximum of €60) is deducted from your assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance is assessed as weekly means.
Any income from an occupational pension is assessed in full. If you have seasonal work you are assessed on your earnings only during the period you are actually working.
Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant's income from employment is assessed in the same way (€20 per day with a maximum of €60 is deducted and 60% of the balance is assessed as weekly means).
People who were getting Farm Assist before 26 September 2007 and who were still in payment on 26 September 2007 may be assessed differently.
Income from capital includes property, savings and investments. If you own property that you are not personally using or you have investments or any other form of capital, the value is assessed, using a special formula. You may or may not be getting an income from the property or investment.
The value of capital is assessed as follows:
The assessment only applies to units of €1,000. Therefore all amounts should be rounded down to the nearest €1,000. For example if you have €38,400 in the bank, the first €20,000 is disregarded, €10,000 is assessed at €1 per €1,000, which is €10 and the remaining €8,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000, which is €16 per week. So your income from capital is €26 per week.
If you don't use your farm and as a result have no income from it, an assessment of its value to you is still made. The farm is effectively treated as capital.
Your home is not taken into account in the means test unless you get an income from it.
Your means from all sources are added together to get a total weekly means. You will be paid the difference between your total assessed weekly means and the maximum rate of Farm Assist that you could get if you had no means (including increases for adult and child dependants).
Weekly rates in 2016
|Farm Assist||Maximum weekly rate 2016|
|Qualified child dependant||
€29.80 (full-rate), €14.90 (half-rate)
An increase is payable for each child dependant if you are getting an increase for a qualified adult. If you do not qualify for an increase for a qualified adult, you may get a half-rate increase for a qualified child dependant.
Download and complete form Farm 1 (pdf) and return this form to your local Intreo centre or social welfare office.
You can appeal a decision if you are unhappy with it. You should appeal with 21 days of the decision and you can ask for an oral hearing. An appeals officer, whose decision is final, will then hear your case. If new information comes to light or your circumstances change, you can apply for Farm Assist again.
If you have further questions about Farm Assist contact your Intreo
centre or local social welfare office.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.