Our minister’s ambition and the ambition of the Department of Agriculture to increase tillage is all very fine in theory until the costs to grow the crop can’t be paid.
The best industry estimates on owned land suggest that winter barley and late-sown spring feed barley are at a loss of €4/ha and €300/ha respectively.
When you include a value on rented land, as most farmers have a proportion of rented land, the loss figures go to a loss of €470/ha for winter barley and a loss of €380/ha for spring feed barley.
So, if we assume a split of owned and rented land on any respectable tillage farm, let’s assume you are looking at a loss of €200/ha on winter barley and €350/ha on spring barley.
It is crystal clear why there is an outcry at an emergency aid payment in the order of €28/ha, because it falls well short of expectations.
So yet again European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen can talk of supporting farming with a multi-million euro spend for parts of Europe such as Andalucia in southern Spain, and Emilia-Romagna in Italy to meet a crisis.
However, when Irish farmers that have been through one of the worst harvests in living memory are offered €28/ha, maybe 10% of the loss figure they have to carry, you can understand why they might decide not to put a crop in the ground in 2024.
Renting out land at €400/acre to a livestock farmer who might never set foot on the land, to address a misguided nitrates debacle would make much more financial sense, which is a deplorable situation.
Tillage farmers will rightly think long and hard about planting this winter and next spring if alternative land use options are in play.