The structure of Irish agriculture is changing, pushed largely by European Union (EU) policies and changing world market situations. The adjustment process is seriously affecting the viability of many rural areas, with an unprecedented exodus of people from these areas leaving societies with weak demographic structures and low levels of services. Farm households in Ireland currently obtain just over 50 % of their household income from farming. Direct payments from the EU now form a significant component of farm income. The adjustments to agriculture are occurring at a time when the current model of competitiveness is under increasing scrutiny, and food safety is becoming a major concern. The Irish agricultural extension service has restructured itself to meet these changing circumstances. Many of its services, particularly advisory services, are provided for a fee. The focus on rural development is increasing and agencies servicing this need are beginning to emphasize farm households as a relevant target group for their services.
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