The Food Vision tillage report is almost finished. A year on from the announcement of the group’s formation the report has 28 proposals. There is a call for immediate financial assistance for the sector in the report. At present, the industry predicts that 20-30,000ha of land will exit the sector in 2024.

The 28 proposals are great, but at present the focus needs to be on maintaining the area under tillage and supporting farmers struggling this season due to bad weather and lower prices.

Crop insurance takes up a good swatch of the report. Yes, many options should be considered, but what Irish farmers need now is support.

If money is going to be spent it would be better invested in a scheme like Straw Incorporation, protein aid or the suggested TESS scheme which is a tillage support payment and TAMS grants to help farmers.

Calculating yields

The reality is Ireland has some of the highest crop yields in the world. Actuaries working for insurance companies will go back for decades, if not 100 years to calculate yields. Therefore, it will be very hard to receive a payment from crop insurance in a difficult year.

Farmers in the US pay about €40/ac for crop insurance each year, but live with risks of extreme weather from severe drought to heavy rainfall and crop damaging winds. Yes, we get bad weather here and that weather is becoming more extreme, but would a crop insurance premium actually pay out?

What happens in a year like 2024, will there be prevent plant acres?

Price insurance or a possible margin insurance might be something to look at, but linking insurance to yield in a country with some of the highest cereal yields in the world seems strange.

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, she didn’t think she was in Kansas anymore. Well, we’re not in Kansas and the insurance companies are likely to be the biggest winner from crop insurance.

We either need to look separately at price insurance, which guarantees farmers a certain price and is not associated with yield or give the money directly to the tillage farmer, just like is done for organics and forestry.