The tillage industry has welcomed the aim to increase tillage area in Ireland. However, at present many expect the area to decline if an intervention is not made ahead of spring planting. Here are some of the views from the sector.

Kieran McEvoy, IFA grain chair

“While we welcome the target of 400,000ha it is going to be a bigger challenge to hold the slip in tillage area between nitrates and financial losses.

“People have lost a lot of money and rented land. The Minister for Agriculture needs to know that losses have been incurred. Tillage farmers have lost money through convergence. The minister is going to have to come with a properly funded scheme to replace those losses.

“It has to be a scheme targeted at tillage farmers. There’s a lot of talk in the Food Vision group about the moving of nutrients. That needs to come fast. It is causing trouble in the land rental market.”

He said that schemes needed “to be announced now, not next October or November, to give farmers some confidence. The unharvested scheme was welcome, but it is not going to hide the ails of 2023”.

Clive Carter, Irish Grain Growers Group (IGGG)

Referring to the increase in organic area the IGGG stated: “This is totally down to the five-fold increase in the Government’s budget towards the organic sector, we believe. This Government needs to apply a similar financial attitude to the tillage sector to aid reaching its goal.

“A mechanism must be prioritised in 2024 to recognise the climate change and environmental value of native Irish grains and pulses versus imports in the Irish agricultural industry. There is no point talking about extra value native grain if a mechanism doesn’t exist in the first place. We believe this will be of great value to our fellow livestock farmers and the agricultural industry in general. We have a positive story to tell as a sector, but current projections suggest another drop in tillage area in 2024.”

Tim O’Donovan, Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA)

“Irish tillage farmers have borne the brunt of reductions in CAP supports at a time when the opposite should be happening, given the proven positive environmental credentials associated with Irish crop production.

“ISTA members apply stringent standards to seed placed on the Irish market and this seed is the starting point for the quality, traceable and sustainable grains produced by Irish tillage farmers.

“Irish native grain deserves to be appropriately recognised and rewarded for the efforts of all involved. This will keep the Irish tillage sector competitive against imported grains, and give the correct market signals necessary to attract investment by farmers, the supply industry and end users of our grains.

“ISTA would urge all Government parties to look at the bigger picture and support our valuable tillage sector and the thousands of people who work in it. We have a very positive story to tell.”

Tillage Industry Ireland

“This year will see an inevitable reduction in tillage area if the Department of Agriculture does not take action now.

“The Food Vision tillage report needs to be released urgently and actions implemented immediately, including a tillage incentive and sustainability scheme, and details of a scheme to facilitate and encourage the transfer of nutrients from livestock to tillage farms.

“The complexity of the rules which apply to tillage are so technical they are getting in the way of being able to make any timely business decisions.

“Following the wet autumn of 2023 there needs to be flexibility around crop diversification. This is especially pertinent to winter crops sown in January or February. There is a real risk farmers will fail to meet conditionality requirements and lose further payments due to weather.

“Farmers need clarification on how bare patches in crops will be dealt with upon inspection by the Department immediately.”