The two- and three-crop restrictions on tillage farmers must be changed part of the upcoming CAP review, the Irish Grain Growers Association (IGGA) has insisted.

The current rules have caused mixed farmers to move way from tillage and the acreage involved should be revised upwards, according to IGGA chair Bobby Miller.

“The acreage needed to comply should be reviewed upwards as it has forced the reduction of acreage in tillage. Mixed type farmers have turned their back on tillage partly because of this rule,” he claimed. “It is counterproductive as tillage farming is carbon-positive, compared to other sectors which the land is being used for now.”

Miller and the IGGA also called for a review of Ecological Focus Area (EFA) rules to include a broadening of eligibility criteria.

The last round of CAP unfairly targeted the tillage sector in terms of reductions to basic payments

“The last round of CAP unfairly targeted the tillage sector in terms of reductions to basic payments as well as the burden of greening requirements falling heaviest on the sector. For example, EFAs, keeping two metres away from drains, the three-crop rule, etc,” said Miller. “We need to be on top of our game immediately and not be utilised by other agricultural sectors, (who are not carbon-positive), for their gain.”

He added that the IGGA wanted tillage farmers to be compensated for having to leave a 2m margin along drains idle.

GM-free feed

The organisation, which was formed in 2015 and does not have a seat at the tillage forum, has also called for Irish-grown grain to be marketed as carbon positive, fully traceable, GM-free feed in order to obtain a premium over imported feed.

“This has the potential to benefit all agricultural sectors in Ireland in terms of higher-value domestic and export markets for all sectors. An example of this would be where milk could be marketed as ‘from GM-free-fed cows’, thus receiving extra income for the dairy farmers and the tillage farmers,” said Miller.

“A similar approach could be applied to beef, lamb, etc. Shelf space is being made available in supermarkets in countries like Germany for such products already.”