All farmers have a job to do this week and that is to make a submission to the Department of Agriculture’s public consultation on the new Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulations by Friday, 20 January.

Pesticides are used professionally, carefully and selectively on most livestock, horticulture, forestry and tillage farms at some stage or another.

The perception that this regulation on pesticides affects tillage farmers only is wrong. Remember, 50% of all glyphosate is used on grassland, the crop that predominates across the country.

It is also used by those agencies looking after rural Ireland – sometimes one could argue maybe overused.

Radical changes

The new regulations call for radical changes including a rule that would see pesticide use banned in the Republic of Ireland as the entire country is classified as a sensitive area due to its current nitrates status.

Effectively, this status classifies the Republic as one nitrates-vulnerable zone, as opposed to more localised, much smaller area, nitrate vulnerable zones, that other countries opted for.

Other suggestions are that farmers would require independent advice on pesticide use, despite the fact we have a shortage of these advisers. Electronic, as opposed to paper, records will need to be kept on integrated pest management and products used. A plant protection products register would also be set up.

All of the above can make positive contributions to a farm business, but these need to be in place and investment in them made before a ban is imposed. It’s a bit like the plan to reduce fertiliser usage without the Department actually knowing how much fertiliser a farm is using. It’s as if we are trying to manage farmers out of business – the cart before the horse.

Farmers do need to reduce pesticide use, but farmers also need to control weeds and diseases on our farms. Submissions can be emailed to and the document can be viewed on the Department’s website. Giving your view and opinion matters on this and might be as important as herding or feeding stock this week.

Multispecies caution

I was pleased to attend day two of the Positive Farmers Conference in Cork last week and I was even better for listening to Meath dairy farmer Joe Leonard and Researcher Trevor Gilliland describe their experience with multispecies swards.

The long and short of it is multispecies swards are nothing new – they have been part of farming for over 200 years.

However, they are not a broad-spectrum blanket solution to sustainability for every farm.

The message was it’s more horses for courses and using forage types and varieties to suit soil and geographical limitations – for example, certain grass varieties for farms that are dry.

Importantly we can’t use rubbish grass mixes in these combinations or in effect it could be a step backwards.

Capital allowance row

There seems to be some confusion on the recently announced accelerated capital allowance plan for farm investment announced in the budget.

The June deadline effectively locks out any investment from accelerated tax reliefs other than some farm projects that had already started.

Our understanding is the Agricultural Block Exemption Rules (ABER) weren’t agreed in time for the publication of the Finance Bill, so the June deadline had to hold.

However, we also understand the finance minister at the time, Paschal Donohoe, promised to extend it. Farmers need movement on this and clarity sooner rather than later.