In a week’s time it is budget day – 10 October. It is then that tillage farmers will learn if the Government is serious about trying to expand the area of tillage and meet its goal in the Climate Action Plan of reaching 400,000ha by 2030.
First, the Government must try to stop the loss of land from the sector. This is an extremely challenging task with competition for land higher than ever due to the limit of the nitrates derogation stocking rate.
The Food Vision tillage group will meet the day before the budget to continue to discuss its plan and the interim report it has produced and this is good. It’s thinking of the sector’s future.
However, at present the sector needs a cash injection. The Government will need to support tillage farmers if they want a tillage sector, in the same way that it supports organic farmers.
Why does the sector need support?
The evidence that the sector needs help has been well-documented.
Crop yields were down significantly due to poor planting conditions and dry weather in the summer time.
Input costs remained high and grain prices have fallen significantly. This has led to farmers producing crops at a loss and losing hundreds per hectare on crops grown on rented land.
Wet weather at harvest affected yield and quality and made straw hard to collect. Some farmers have not been able to harvest spring cereals planted late in the season and spring beans and oilseed rape as September has been mainly wet.
Some maize crops fell in the storm last week.
Call for exceptional aid
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue made an aid request to the EU for the tillage sector last Friday. However, aid from the national pot will also be needed.
Farm organisations had called for exceptional aid to be paid to the sector. The IFA said that Ireland was allocated €9.5m in funding from the EU’s agricultural reserve and that this could be complemented with 200% funding from the national exchequer.
The IFA said that the tillage sector meets all of the criteria needed for the funding – adverse weather, high input costs and market-related issues.
Macra and the irish Grain Growers group backed up these calls for exceptional aid.
In early September, the Irish Farmers Journal reported that Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue is considering a flat-rate payment for tillage based on it’s benefits to climate. However, this is separate to exceptional aid.
All tillage farmers have been hit this season, some more than others. Tillage farmers await to see what comes in the budget.