Farmers planting extra protein crops and converting grassland to tillage need to be cautious when working out their budgets.

Farmers who planted more protein crops than normal and are tilling grassland need to do the sums, as protein crops are not included in the calculations for eligible area in the Tillage Incentive Scheme (TIS).

To give an example, if the total tillage area increases on a farm because grass has been ploughed to put in a cereal crop, oilseed rape, maize or beet and the area planted to protein crops (not planted after grass) on the farm has increased, then the farmer will not be paid both a protein payment and the TIS payment, even where a cereal crop, oilseed rape, maize or beet has been planted following grassland.

Using a real-time example, a farmer planted approximately 70ac of extra winter beans than was planted in 2021. This is in line with good advice.

The farmer was cutting their nitrogen use, making more available to other farmers. It is also in line with the Government’s aim to grow more native protein.

Extra land

The farmer then got an opportunity to rent 60ac of extra land, 40ac of which was in grass, which was planted to spring barley.

Under the TIS, this farmer’s eligible area has actually decreased, as only the following crops are eligible: barley, wheat, oats, rye, oilseed rape, maize and beet. This farmer’s cereal area has only decreased by about 10ac in 2022.

If this farmer’s beans area had decreased and cereals area increased, they would have been eligible for the scheme on all of the grassland area.

Double payment

Farmers are aware of the fact that they cannot receive a double payment for protein and the TIS. However, this farmer ticked all the boxes even before the scheme was introduced.

They have taken on more land and, as a result, the cereal area has only decreased by about 10ac. They have planted 40ac of spring barley into grass. They have increased the protein area.

They will use less nitrogen on that protein area, freeing up nitrogen for other farmers and they will increase the amount of grain and pulses available to the market as the overall tillage area has increased.

However, they will not be rewarded for this. They will be paid a minimum of €300/ha for the protein crops. This protein payment was likely to be €250/ha or more before it was set at a minimum. In 2021, the payment was also €300/ha.

This seems like an oversight on the Minister’s part. As farmers continue to plant, they need to be aware of this issue.