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Abstract

Sustainability Indicators (economic, environmental and social) are developed here using Irish National Farm Survey (FADN) data over a ten-year period (1996-2006) in an attempt to measure the sustainability of Irish agriculture at the farm-level. The general concept of sustainability is discussed and the development of agricultural sustainability indicators in an Irish context described. Individual indicators are dealt with in turn and the RERC SMILE (microsimulation) model is used to demonstrate how these indicators can be mapped at electoral division level. Economic viability was found to be generally in decline over the ten-year period examined, however, when individual farming systems were taken into account, some were found to perform better than others. Unsurprisingly the more intensive farming systems (primarily dairy) were found to pollute more on average. Irish agriculture is experiencing a period of fundamental change, not least in terms of the ever-changing rural demographic; the challenge therefore lies in ensuring that farms remain economically, environmentally and socially sustainable in the long-term.

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