The European Commission’s recently announced proposals on a pesticide reduction law could mean lower yields for Ireland’s tillage farmers if their use of sprays is curtailed, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has claimed.

The IFA accused Brussels of mixed messaging when it comes to the tillage sector, citing the calls to ramp up cereal production after the invasion of Ukraine as an example of its encouragement of higher levels of production across the EU.

“It’s only a few months since tillage farmers were being encouraged to sow more crops in response to the impact on the supply chain caused by the war in Ukraine,” commented IFA environment chair Paul O’Brien.

“Farmers who have invested in extra crops need to protect those crops if they are to make a return,” he said.

Revisiting reduction targets

O’Brien referenced the European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski’s remarks to the IFA on his trip to Ireland when it was indicated that elements of the Farm to Fork policy, which set out the need for a reduction in pesticide usage, should be reviewed to take account of developments to food security situation.

“Commissioner Wojciechowski was explicit when he addressed our national council last month: ‘the EU Farm to Fork policy will have to be revisited in light of food security concerns’,” the environment chair continued.

“Yet again, we have the Commission bringing forward changes, but only vague assurances around support for farmers. Their unwillingness to carry out a full assessment is a big worry for farmers.”

Yield worries

IFA grain chair Kieran McEvoy stated that the use of plant protection products were an essential component of farmers’ crop management practices in Ireland, due to the temperate conditions and farmers’ need to protect yield.

He claimed that without pesticides, tillage yields could half.

“It’s an important tool for farmers. Without it, yields will drop off significantly. The [Commission’s] Joint Research Centre estimates they could drop by as much as 50%,” said McEvoy.

“We want to promote the use of native grains as much as possible. Reducing crop production across the EU, only for other global regions to step in, would be a massive mistake,” he added.

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