Northern Ireland

Young Northern Ireland farmers in search for work overseas

Image caption Reduced incomes mean young farmers are travelling overseas to find work.

The children of farmers are going overseas to get jobs in agriculture because their parents can't pay them to stay at home and work the family farm.

They're moving to the Middle East to milk cows and travelling to England where they can earn hundreds of pounds a week helping with the harvest.

Sam Chesney has a beef farm in Kircubbin.

His 20-year-old son Robert is heading to England in May for six months.

Image caption Sam Chesney says he is having to make savings where he can

He'll be cutting silage and helping to bring in the harvest.

If Robert stayed at home, his father reckons he could only afford to pay him around a hundred pounds a week.

Working long hours in England, Robert hopes to earn up to £1,000 a week.

It has brought the issue of the finances of farm families into sharp relief.

Image caption Robert Chesney, 20, is travelling to England to find employment.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture published recently show the average farm income is around £13,500 - down 46%.

Sam Chesney is lucky. He has a contract with a leading supermarket, and is not carrying lots of bank debt.

But the profit on his cattle is down almost £180 per head, and he's having to make savings where he can.

Robert is keen to go, but concerned about how his father will cope in his absence.

Lots of farm families are feeling the pressure. The charity Rural Support is helping 200 of them which are in financial crisis.

Image caption Leo Colgan helps farming families restructure their finances.

Debt adviser Leo Colgan used to work for the bank, now he helps families restructure their finances.

He works for the charity Rural Support and says the key is seeking help as early as possible.

Image caption The Ulster Farmers' Union want to ensure farming remains profitable

The Ulster Farmers' Union launched its election manifesto on Monday. It contains a list of actions it wants the new assembly to tackle to keep farming profitable.

President Ian Marhsall said politicians canvassing farm families for votes will be button-holed about farm incomes.

He said the industry has a long term future, but needs help to overcome the current cash crisis.