Imagine if a suckler scheme was devised, potentially worth thousands per successful applicant.

A ranking system is devised in case of over-subscription.

Niche traditional suckler breeds top the rankings, with Kerry cattle tops, followed by Angus, Hereford and then the continentals: Charolais, Simmental and Limousin, Belgian Blue, and finally Friesian cross suckler dams.

Fair enough, you say, there has to be some system in place.

Top of the queue

But then it emerges that owning one Kerry cow get you to the top of the queue, even if the rest of your herd are all Friesian crosses. This is ahead of the traditional suckler breeds and the continental breeds.

That is what seems to have happened with the Straw Incorporation Measure scheme. The ranking criteria places oats at the top, followed by wheat, rye barley and finally oilseed rape.

It appears from the terms and conditions that an applicant with any oats will top the rankings. Indeed an applicant with oats but with a higher proportion of non-tillage crops will qualify ahead of a 100% tillage farmer without an oats crop.

This is only emerging publicly now, but stories are circulating of farm advisers recommending to tillage farmers that they grow some oats.


It threatens to turn what had been a good news scheme into a farce, particularly if all tillage farmers now plant some oats, perhaps ripping up another crop in the process. This would put all applicants in the first three tiers.

And what about wheaten straw, vital to straw composters and mushroom growers. Is it ranked ahead of barley straw to placate cattle and dairy farmers?

As one tillage farmer said: "If we objected to grant aid for stalled sheds because it would affect demand for straw we would be told where to go, and rightly so." Indeed.