Climate change: 'Effective strategy' for farmers if Moneypoint goes biomass
A new report suggests that converting Moneypoint power station to sustainable biomass would be an 'effective strategy' for Irish agriculture to fight climate change.

Converting Moneypoint coal-fired power station to sustainable biomass by converting 8% of Irish agricultural land to energy crops would offer a “more stable income for farmers and forestry”, according to a new report commissioned by the anti-wind group RethinkPylons.

The group commissioned UK-based BW Energy to carry out a report called 'Unlocking Ireland’s biomass potential - converting Moneypoint coal fired power station to sustainable biomass'.

If Moneypoint were to convert, energy crops (especially miscanthus) and residue materials such as straw and grain husks could be used as the main source of ‘‘green energy’’, as well as forestry thinnings, the report suggests.

According to BW Energy, large amounts of grassland suitable for energy crops are underutilised in Ireland and could be converted, with "minimal effect on food or feed production".

In comparing the profitability of growing perennial energy crops to different traditional farming sectors, Teagasc found it to be more economically attractive compared with less profitable beef production.

“In the long term, fixed price contracts for energy crops and forestry offer more stable income than more volatile, traditional sectors,” the report says, and converting the power station to biomass produced by Irish farmers would offer “a credible, economically effective strategy” for Irish agriculture to fight climate change.

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), two million hectares of Irish agricultural land are suitable for energy crops such as miscanthus or short-rotation crop willow. The SEAI’s suitability mapping tool was then used to estimate that up to 250,000ha of grassland could be converted to energy crops without a significant effect on food or feed production.

Benefits for farmers

In comparing the profitability of growing perennial energy crops to different traditional farming sectors, Teagasc found it to be more economically attractive compared with less profitable beef production.

“A thriving energy crop sector would sustain and diversify rural farm income,” Teagasc said in its 2014 Tillage Sector Development Plan.

Additional advantages of energy crop production over and above higher profitability (compared with beef-rearing) were also identified by Teagasc, including offsetting national greenhouse gas emissions, increased rural employment in the biomass supply chain, reduced dependence on fossil fuels and significant environmental benefits, including increased biodiversity of farmland, reduced flood impact, improved water quality and better sludge management.

Price competitive

The report says that if the Irish sustainable biomass market is to develop at scale, it needs to be price competitive, with potential pellet imports costing around €7.70/GJ (gigajoule) for delivery at Moneypoint.

A study by UCD and Teagasc estimated that energy crop biomass pellets (primarily miscanthus) could be produced and delivered in Ireland for €7/GJ.

Forestry

Other sources of Irish sustainable biomass such as forestry thinnings and other forestry residues could, according to the SEAI, cost as little as €5/GJ based on Teagasc and COFORD trials.

“This would require Irish foresters to adopt established Nordic whole tree harvesting techniques to utilise a larger proportion of the felled timber. This represents a 45% cost reduction compared to the current shortwood harvesting approach used in Ireland,” the report says.

Ireland has the best growing climate for forestry in Europe with substantial scope to expand due to low forest cover, BW energy says.

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Over 400 farmers travel to fourth tyre recycling centre
The fourth tyre recycling centre was at Gortdrum Mines in Monard, Co Tipperary, on Saturday.

A total of 850 tonnes of tyres were collected from 400 farmers in Tipperary on Saturday. The average volume collected at each of the four bring centres now stands at 1,000t.

While this is the final planned disposal day with the Irish Farm Films Producers Group (IFFPG), farmers have called for further "bring centres".

The IFA is calling for a national scheme to be rolled out so that there is one recycling point opened in each county.

IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney said the association has sought a meeting with Minister for State at the Department of Environment Seán Canney.

“We look forward to working with him and his officials to build on the good work so far and ensure we all play our part in keeping the countryside clean,” Cooney said.

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Equivalent of 350,000 car tyres collected from bring centres

Irish farms among the most valuable in the EU
A combination of high land prices and low debt makes the net value of Irish farms among the highest in Europe.

The average Irish farm has a net value of just under €1m, the fourth highest among the 28 EU member states, a comparison of 2015 farm accounting data by the European Commission has found.

UK farms are the most valuable, with a net worth of €1.8m on average, followed by the Netherlands at €1.6m and farms in Denmark at just over €1m.

By contrast, the average Romanian farm is worth just €33,700, the lowest net worth in the EU.

Irish farms hold on average €1m worth of assets, higher than the EU average of €338,600, but only in sixth position in the EU league. Nearly 90% of those assets are land, with only UK farms locking more of their value into farmland.

Meanwhile Irish farms have very low debt levels, far smaller than the EU average of €54,500. Recent CSO figures show that most farms don't have any debt, and the 35% who do owe an average of €60,000 only. Moreover, Irish farmers have secured long-term loans in much larger proportions than their counterparts in most other EU countries, who are more exposed to the need of constantly refinancing short-term loans.

High solvency

As a result, Irish farms have the lowest liabilities-to-assets ratio, under 3%, described by the Commission as a sign of high solvency. "In the case of Ireland, the low liabilities-to-assets ratio mainly reflects relatively high asset values when compared to low liabilities," analysts wrote.

The high value of Irish farms is not reflected in their income ranking. The average Irish farm's net income was higher than the EU average but ranked in 11th position only, far behind the Dutch leaders.

Irish farmers were also the third most reliant on direct payments for their income, with only Greek and Finnish farmers receiving a larger proportion of their income from the BPS system.

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2018 farm incomes to sink to eight-year low

Comer brothers close in on sale of GAA land
The 103 acres that was bought by the GAA for €2.8m during the boom is nearing a sale for a reported €750,000 or €7,300/ac.

The sale of 103 acres at Mountain South is imminent and at the final stages, the Irish Farmers Journal understands. The land, which was bought by the GAA in the mid-2000's for a reported €2.8m, was guided for €750,000 or €7,300/ac when it re-entered the market in April.

It is believed that it has been almost bought for around the guide of €750,000. Local reports have linked the Comer brothers with the sale. It has been suggested that businessmen are going to turn the farm into a €20m centre of excellence for soccer.

The holding was withdrawn from auction in April and was offered by private treaty since. Handling the sale is Cathal Moran of Cathal Moran and Co Auctioneers, Athenry. He is joint agents with GVA Donal O Buachalla.