Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said he is concerned about the expected drop in tillage area this year. He announced a €100/ha payment for tillage farmers on Saturday and said this was to give growers confidence to plant, having acknowledged that there is “real concern and anxiety around margins”.

“It certainly doesn’t address all the issues that farmers have or indeed the level of risk that is there for farmers going to plant.

“It’s never possible for the Government to actually be able to address all of that, but it’s really important that we do as much as we can,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal’s Tillage Podcast.

Industry estimates suggest tillage area could decline by 35,000ha this year. The minister admitted that the 6% increase from the Tillage Incentive Scheme in 2022 was “being eroded”.

“I am concerned about the pressure that’s on land. We don’t know where it will end up this year in terms of slippage. It does look like an area will slip away from the sector for some reason, nitrates being an issue, but also the pressure on incomes. I don’t want that to happen. I want to reverse that.”

The minister received the Food Vision tillage report earlier this week which he said he would work with others on to find answers to grow the sector.

Acknowledging the loss of income from convergence, he added that protein aid and straw incorporation payments will be important in the next few years.

He said he is “massively committed to growing the tillage sector”.

“I want to see it reach that 400,000ha. We have one of the best capacities to yield per hectare anywhere in the world, obviously our cost base can be higher, but we have a great capacity to grow tillage and we should be doing more in this country, because we have more of a demand for it too.”