I thank the Senator for raising this important matter. I congratulate her on her recent re-election to Seanad Éireann. It is great to see her back on the agricultural panel. It is also great that one of the first topics she has raised on her return relates to such an important area of agriculture. I thank the Senator for that.
The Senator is right that it is not just about farm safety, it is also about farmers' mental health and well-being, especially in these Covid times. I am aware that it is hard on all of us and that everybody has suffered isolation. The latter has had a greater impact on farmers, however, particularly those older farmers who live on alone. Their main sources of socialisation outside of their work were, in general, going to the mart or to the pub, both of which were closed due to Covid. Even going to a sporting event, be it a GAA game or a soccer match in the local village, was out, along with mass or services at the weekend. All of these outlets were taken away from them. Farmers spend a lot of time on their own, worrying about the weather, prices, etc., and, during Covid, there has not been a safety valve to relieve the pressure. I am taking a number of initiatives to try to improve the position in this regard, including working with my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Feighan, on the On Firm Ground initiative. This will train advisers to help signpost supports for farmers. I will go into those shortly.
The Senator is right to talk about the impact of farm safety and the overall numbers. Agriculture gives employment to approximately 6% of the State's total workforce but it accounts for almost 50% of workplace-related fatalities. We had a late notification in February for a death that happened last year, so now our numbers for the past year officially stand at 20. Of those 20 people who lost their lives last year, nine were farmers over the age of 65 and three were children under the age of eight. These figures are unacceptably high. This is why the Government is determined to address the issue. In that context, we set out very ambitious targets in the programme for Government.
I am the first Minister of State to be given dedicated responsibility for farm safety. While farm safety is not an issue for the CAP negotiation process - the Council’s agreed general approach to CAP reform does not reference farm safety - this does not mean that we cannot address it in the context of the next CAP. The proposed CAP gives member states much more subsidiarity to design interventions, on the basis of their own needs, through CAP strategic plans. Our strategic plan is being worked on at the moment.
In the context of the flexibility relating to CAP strategic plans and in the context of the programme for Government, which identifies the need to invest in enhanced farm safety and well-being measures under the next CAP, my Department is incorporating farm safety into the next CAP strategic plan for 2023–27, which is currently in development. Putting together the plan will involve a number of stages, including: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, SWOT, analysis and needs analysis; needs assessment; intervention design; financial allocations; target-setting, including monitoring; and governance systems. The draft CAP strategic plan will also be subject to an ex-ante evaluation, strategic environmental assessment and appropriate assessment including a public consultation on the draft plan and draft environmental report this summer. This will be an opportunity for everybody to have their say.
I have, with my officials, continued to engage extensively with stakeholders on the future of CAP. This process has been ongoing. Further public consultations on the development of the CAP strategic plan are being considered and will happen. I look forward to that engagement with stakeholders as we develop the plan, which as the Senator has said, must be submitted to the Commission by 1 January 2023.
The SWOT analysis and needs assessment process has identified health and safety on farms as an area that requires attention under the next CAP. This is due to Ireland's unacceptably high level of farm fatalities. It is my view is that all measures in the CAP strategic plan should have a health and safety element incorporated as appropriate. I am working with my officials to develop measures in the next CAP to reflect that. We can expect to see health and safety requirements feature strongly in our training programmes for farmers and advisers, as well as through the various measures from on-farm investments to livestock schemes and the rest. I will expand on that further in my supplementary answer.