Ireland should take heed of the 1924 Commission on Agriculture established to divide over 1.3m acres of estate lands when considering the future of the country’s small farms, President Micheal D Higgins told the Irish Farmers Journal on Friday.

President Higgins stated that the abolition of the Land Commission amounts to a “scandal” when he was asked for his views of key findings to emerge from Teagasc’s Small Farm Survey published last month.

The survey found that there were 48,000 farmers classed as small in 2022, with the majority being beef and sheep farmers deriving an income of less than €3,000 from their farms that year.


A quarter of these farmers reported to be planning an exit from active farming over the next five years which would see 425,000ac entering the land leasing market before 2027.

“I believe that farming, in order to be sustained, will have to be supported,” the President said.

“And I believe that it was a scandal to abolish the Land Commission [and its] views in relations to upper limits and appropriate usages.

“Because to do many of the things now in relation to responding to climate consequences in Ireland, we need the co-operation of many landowners in the same spot given shared terrain.”

Land trends

President Higgins said that farm enlargement is a long-established trend in land ownership in Ireland which the Land Commission did not sufficiently tilt in favour of smaller farmers.

“You have quite a long history of it now of people in the professional classes, for example, building up property portfolios by buying land,” he commented.

The President stated that by the end of the 19th century, the area farmed by graziers exceeded that owned by absentee landlords.

He also criticised what he referred to as an “American-version [of farming] that the CAP has been producing” and stated that many smaller farmers are forced to use an off-farm source of income to “subsidise their existence on the land”.