Farm Assist is a means-tested income support scheme for 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 do not need to be available for work to qualify for Farm Assist.
There is a similar social welfare payment for fishermen and women called Fish Assist.
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) and Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS), income from employment and income from property and capital.
When you apply for Farm Assist, a social welfare officer 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, area aid, etc. They will also want information on the sale of crops, cattle, milk and other produce. The officer 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 spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. You are entitled to receive a copy of the farm income calculation.
If you or your spouse 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.
The deductions from income for children were discontinued from 3 April 2013 (these were €127 per year for each of the first two dependent children and €190.50 per year for each subsequent child).
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.
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 no longer 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) from casual work 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.
Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant's income from employment is taken into account as follows:
€20 per day (up to a maximum of €60) from work is deducted from your spouse's, civil partner or cohabitant's average assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance is assessed as weekly means. The weekly means is then deducted from the combined total of your personal rate of Farm Assist, the maximum Increase for a Qualified Adult and any increase for child dependents.
People who were getting Farm Assist before 26 September 2007 and are 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 or €1,352 per year.
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 total means from all sources are added together to get a total weekly means. The difference between your assessed weekly means and the appropriate weekly amount of social welfare payment for your family's circumstances is the amount of Farm Assist payable.
You may be liable to pay Class S contributions on your income from self-employment.
Weekly rates in 2014
|Farm Assist||Maximum weekly rate|
|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 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 local social
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.