Opinion

Farmers should be forced to retire at 65

The last year or so has seen the press filled with stories of elderly farmers killed by cattle and other livestock.

The reality is that farming is the most dangerous way-of-life that any person can follow in this country. And the older one gets, the greater the risk of being hurt by an animal or an item of machinery.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. The reflexes that we had as young men and women become a fast fading memory as we pass through the 60 years-of-age barrier.

‘A young person’s job’

Farming is a young person’s occupation. And this should be reflected in the legislation that is enacted here in the UK on the matter – once Brexit becomes a reality.

It is now clear to me that farmers should be forced to retire, once they reach 65 years-of-age.

One way of making this possible is for Defra to declare that all support measures will not be paid out to people who are above this age threshold.

Such a move would also have the added benefit of forcing farmers to have a viable succession plan in place before they reach an agreed retirement age.

The industry has been talking for years about getting the average farmer age down. Surely, this would be one way of achieving such an objective.

A support scheme for retired farmers

In return for an agreement to retire at a certain age, the UK should also put in place a support scheme that would see regular pension payments made to those former producers who had implemented a feasible succession plan.

These could be bolted-on to the national pension payments, which they are already eligible for.

All the statistics point to the sad reality that older people are more liable to succumb to a farm accident than any other age group. Anything that can be done to reduce these figures should be – and must be – looked at.

It’s also time for the farming industry to realise that better education programmes and voluntary initiatives of different sorts are not getting the farm accident figures down quickly enough.

At this stage, it really is time to look at other options. Introducing a mandatory retirement age for farmers is one possible way of bringing a fresh perspective to the subject.

Farming is a way-of-life for many people. But on the other hand, it should not be allowed to become an all-consuming commitment for older people.

Everyone deserves a safe and enjoyable retirement, free from the stress associated with managing a business that really could cost them their lives.

Farm Safety Week 2018 starts today. So why don’t the ‘rule makers’ start to take real decisions that will genuinely make our farms safer places for everyone?