The Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) is officially open for applications and as farmers fill out their Basic Payment Scheme applications they will be required to declare how much straw, if any, they intend to chop and where.
Farmers can apply to chop a minimum of 5ha and a maximum of 40ha.
The payment for oats, wheat, rye and barley is €250/ha and for oilseed rape it is €150/ha.
Once the application is submitted, candidates must wait until June to be notified if their application has been successful.
Where farmers had already submitted their applications before the scheme was launched, they will be able to amend their application.
If the measure is oversubscribed, the Department has stated that “a process of ranking and selection will be applied with applicants placed into tiers based on their application data” (see Table 1).
The first four tiers will see farmers applying to chop oaten straw admitted to the measure first. This means that any area of oats in an application will prioritise that applicant and qualify that farm to get up to 40ha of straw into the scheme, regardless of the remaining straw types.
So a farmer chopping 1ha of oats, 10ha of barley and 29ha of oilseed rape can get the full value of the scheme, but a farmer proposing to chop only barley straw will not get in if the scheme if fully subscribed by tier nine.
Applicants planting cover crops under GLAS and farmers with more than 15% of their land in grassland are at a disadvantage on the rankings. However, if any of these farms decide to chop oats, it immediately pushes them up the priority list.
The Department stated to the Irish Farmers Journal: “There is no minimum area of oats required. However, it is anticipated that the crop declarations by applicants will reflect the normal agricultural practices on tillage holdings. Any perceived anomalies linked to exceptionally small areas will likely result in further administrative checks and/or inspections to ensure that the crop is being managed correctly.”
Tiers five to eight cover wheat. Tiers nine to 12 take in barley crops, while oilseed rape straw is the lowest priority on the list. However, if the scheme is oversubscribed and an application has oats among the parcels to be chopped, it should qualify and be able to chop oilseed rape straw, at a lower rate of payment – €150/ha. This will also be the case as you work down through the tiers.
The ranking order will most likely be welcomed by livestock farmers frustrated at the scheme’s implementation, but will no doubt disgruntle people in areas of the country where barley is dominant. The ranking could in fact see straw travel longer distances than needed due to this fact. However, there is also the fact that had barley been one of the top priorities for chopping, almost every grower would have it in some area and it would not whittle down the applicants.
The other side of this is that when farmers now enter small areas of oats the barley straw may be chopped anyway, but those dominant in barley are at a clear disadvantage and if the scheme is oversubscribed, areas with a large amount of barley, where straw prices are lowest, may see some farmers not benefit at all from the scheme.
In the case of over-subscription, the current setup of the scheme means that those who have oats in their application can now claim up to the full 40ha and receive up to €10,000 in payment, unless they have oilseed rape in the application.
The scheme seems to have been set up to keep livestock farmers at ease. While there is a fear of under-subscription, in the case of over-subscription a large amount of money may be given to fewer applicants than initially anticipated. To put this into perspective, it is possible that relatively few of the 5,000 specialist tillage growers will benefit directly from this scheme and some may get the maximum payment while others may not qualify. So the scheme that was brought in to provide financial aid to the tillage sector may not now do its job.