The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has called for exceptional aid for the tillage sector in October’s budget.
IFA grain chair Kieran McEvoy said that the European Commission has provisionally allocated Ireland with €9.5m of funding from the agricultural reserve.
“These funds are earmarked to support sectors impacted by adverse weather, high input costs and market-related issues.
“The tillage sector is taking a hit by each measure.
“Anyone involved in the production of tillage or horticultural crops has been particularly affected.
Without support, we are going to see a further contraction in tillage area in 2024, similar to what we saw happening in 2023,” he said.
An Irish Farmers Journal survey published last week showed that half of tillage farmers renting land expect to lose land in 2024 as a result of competition for land and the inability to pay high rental prices.
Chair of the Irish Grain Growers Group Bobby Miller said that the survey results reflect what he has been hearing from members.
“The Government and Department officials have been well aware of the realities of nitrates [derogation changes] and its consequences. Tillage farmers rightly feel angry about how the Irish agricultural industry has developed in recent decades.
“Those that shaped the industry, including Governments and State bodies, have driven the youth from tillage farming. The Government’s Climate Action Plan is now a pipe dream,” Miller commented.
Tillage Industry Ireland (TII) wrote to Minister Charlie McConalogue explaining: “The loss of land associated with aggressive actions from the dairy sector in particular is seeing some farms become economically unviable because of [their] small scale and this tillage land is most often ending up going back to grass for the dairy sector.”
TII listed many other issues facing the sector, but said land loss is an immediate issue as “acres lost to leases are unlikely to return as an option for at least five years”.
IFA presidential election candidate Francie Gorman commented: “Tillage farmers who grew crops this year will exit the business unless there is an exceptional aid package put in place.
"Any such scheme to support the sector needs to be tailored in a way that the benefits go directly to tillage farmers.”
The other presidential election candidate Martin Stapleton said recently that “the way financial supports are distributed needs to be re-examined to focus on vulnerable areas and sectors, quality food production and environmental ambition”.