Tillage farmers need an insurance mechanism to protect them against price volatility and the vagaries of the weather, a major climate conference was told.
Chair of the Food Vision tillage group Matt Dempsey said this year’s disastrous weather and harvest conditions highlighted the need for some form of insurance to limit farmers’ exposure to events that were beyond their control.
“This year is a good example of a year when we need some sort of volatility insurance,” Dempsey told the Agriculture and Climate Change: Science in Action Conference, which was held in Dublin recently.
“There are quite a few around the world and we have enough cop on, I presume, to try and manufacture one that suits Irish conditions,” he maintained.
Dempsey accepted that any such initiative would have to be run past the authorities in Brussels to ensure it complied with State aid rules.
However, he said there was an imperative on Government - from a climate change perspective - to promote policies that stalled and even reversed the movement of lands out of tillage and into dairying.
The Food Vision group chair said that if the agricultural sector hoped to meet its climate change targets, this needed to happen.
He said a process to encourage the greater utilisation of livestock slurry by tillage farmers also needed to be put in place.
Dempsey said the Food Vision group should be ready to publish its report following two further stakeholder meetings, which are due to take place before Christmas.
He told the conference that the “global scene around cereal production has fundamentally changed”.
The massive increase in cereal exports from Russia and Brazil had profoundly altered the global supply situation, he maintained.
Dempsey said the jump in exports from both countries was helped by the adoption of scientific developments which were denied to EU growers.
“This is where the role of Europe as a whole has to come into effect. Because we have clear rules that we can’t import beef with hormones, but we have absolutely no problem in importing cereals that are GM [genetically modified] or produced using inputs that are banned in Europe,” he said.
“There is a distinct competitive shift that is taking place,” Dempsey maintained.