This claim is accurate. The average payment received from the EU (£27,648) in 2016-17 represented 62.4% of total farm income (£44,305). This ratio fluctuates with market prices; it ranged between 52% and 71% during 2012-13 to 2016-17.

How much of Northern Ireland farm revenues are coming from EU support?

During the BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show on 5 February 2019, two guests debated the percentage of farmers’ income that is coming from Brussels. Jane Morris, former Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, said that more than 80% of farmers’ income in Northern Ireland is coming from EU cheques: “under the common agricultural policy for farmers … over 80% of their whole revenue monthly comes from the European Union” (16:19). Former UKIP Northern Ireland leader David McNarry counter-claimed “it is actually somewhere about 62%” (17:30).

Farm incomes in Northern Ireland

DAERA annually publishes a statistical report on Northern Ireland farm incomes. These reports include average net farm incomes, as well as direct payments coming from the European Union (under the Basic Payment Scheme). In 2016-17, the average net income per farm was £16,387. The average additional payments received from the EU was £27,648 per farm. Thus, 62.4% of the total farm income (£44,305) came from EU payments. This substantiates McNarry’s statement.

This percentage is not stable, and varies every year. The average incomes and EU payment rates from the past five years are summarised in the following table (in £ per farm):

 Net IncomeEU PaymentsTotal RevenueRatio

Figures for 2017-18 will be published on 28 March 2019.

The share of EU payments as part of total income also differs highly between farm types. In 2016-17, pig farms “are the only farm type to return a positive Net Farm Income when direct payments are removed”. Only 16% of their income (£14,387 of £88,249) comes from EU payments. “Cattle and Sheep (LFA)” with 70% (£32,027 of £45,634) and “Cereals” with 77% (£30,023 of £39,127) are the farm types with the highest percentages.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Payments that Northern Ireland farms receive are coming from the EU’s common agricultural policy. The CAP was established in 1962, and was meant to provide “affordable food for EU citizens and a fair standard of living for farmers”. Since 2003, the CAP provides income support for farmers. Direct payments, including a basic payment and additional support, are granted directly to farmers to ensure them a safety net. Farms receive payments on the condition that they respect rules for health and environment.

The amount of payments are given independently from production quantities, in order “to provide EU farmers with a safety net against volatile market prices”. This explains why the percentage of EU payments often differs, while the average payment itself stays more or less stable.

Image source: Untitled by K-State Research and Extension CC BY-NC

FactCheckNI is Northern Ireland’s first and only dedicated independent fact-checking service and a verified signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can learn more about about FactCheckNI, our personnel, what our article verdicts mean, and how to submit a claim.