Some 200m litres of agricultural diesel must be ringfenced for use by farm contractors to secure the national silage harvest, according to the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors (FCI).

FCI chief executive Michael Moroney said the association called for the measure in a presentation to over 40 TDs and senators in Leinster House on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal following the meeting, Moroney said politicians joining the hour-long presentation were also asked to push for an investigation into “manipulation of the diesel market”, a removal of the carbon tax on agricultural diesel and for a register of all farm and forestry contractors to be put in place.

A key concern of FCI, Government and oppositions TDs also heard that farm and forestry contractors feel “a little bit invisible and certainly homeless” when it comes to Government support and recognition, as they are “not identified as under agriculture or transport”.

Secure the harvest

The presentation in Leinster House involved detail on the level of agricultural diesel consumption farm contractors will go through over the coming months.

Moroney explained that Ireland’s 700 average pit silage contractor units will use 3,000l of green diesel each day or 2.1m litres per day combined.

He said this will be the case for the 45-day period of the first-cut silage harvest, adding up to over 90m litres of fuel.

He said an equivalent of over 90m litres will also be used in the same period by baled silage units, suggesting a total combined figure of almost 200m, the amount the association says “must be ringfenced”.

Farm contractors are paying double the amount for fuel this year than they did in 2021, says FCI.

The Laois man said the FCI ask is “based on actual numbers and not theoretical” and has come about as he is “hearing from members on the ground that there are agricultural diesel supply challenges”.

He said that there’s a “lack of realisation” from those working on securing food and fodder security, in light of the impact of the war in Ukraine, “on who’s going to be making the silage”.

Price manipulation

The FCI also called for an “immediate investigation” into the agricultural diesel market, as it is “concerned that someone is manipulating” it.

Moroney said: “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever see the day again when agricultural diesel is costing less than a euro per litre.”

He described this as a “sad realisation” and warned that many contractors are paying double what they were for diesel this time last year. He said his own monthly bill will have increased from €10,000 to €20,000.

“In an environment where farmers don’t always pay up front, how are contractors meant to finance that,” he asked.

The contractor described how he’s received quotes of €1.17/l for agricultural diesel on Thursday after being quoted a rate of €1.03/l the day before and said this “lower figure is creeping up the whole time”.

Moroney said prices are jumping 10c and 15c between days and that this is leading to concerns about price manipulation.

He said the Austrian, German and Italian governments have already commenced investigations into such manipulation by their green diesel suppliers and that the Irish Government must follow suit.

No environmental alternatives

TDs and senators also heard that contractors have “no environmental alternatives” to using agricultural diesel currently and that this isn’t going to change for a number of years.

Moroney said that, therefore, the carbon tax on the fuel must be “abolished immediately”, as the average contractor is now paying “€9,000 to €10,000 extra a year” due to the charge.

The FCI also called for the Department of Agriculture to develop a register of all farm and forestry contractors, similar to its equivalent in Italy, a measure it says would give a better understanding of the sector.

Clare TD Cathal Crowe put the call for 200m litres of green diesel to be ringfenced for the sector to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil on Thursday.

Deputy Crowe said contractors “want to know that they can have [diesel] filled at a reasonable price, so that they can actually take this silage crop from the ground and harvest it and have it in the sheds”.

Minister McConalogue noted his Fianna Fáil colleague’s question and highlighted that he has made “interventions already” with the tillage scheme to “encourage additional grass growth in relation to multi-species sward and clover swards”.

He did not comment directly on the ask to ringfence the 200m litres.

Read more

Employing staff in a contracting business - the legal aspects you need to know

Machinery costing – a new approach based on fuel usage