This week, Siobhán Walsh charts what some might see as a very pessimistic situation, but sadly it is very close to reality for many tillage farmers.

At the Teagasc conference in Kilkenny last week, the tillage farmers and Teagasc specialists Shay Phelan, Dermot Forristal and Michael Hennessy all described the challenge in black and white.

In isolation, some of the issues might not look like too big of a problem. This week our tillage editor attempts to bring all the issues discussed together and put a number on it – a real cost. Weather is one part of the problem. Regulations are another part. Policy is another and ultimately prices are another. Workload and change are another.

When they come together, it becomes challenging and real. The cumulative effect is what hits farmers and could ultimately push them out of tillage. Everything must be done to try and alleviate the challenge.

While grassland is Ireland’s mainstay enterprise, cereals and tillage are the bigger part of the cake for many of the larger European countries. The price of cereals declined sharply in 2023 compared to 2022.


The value of EU27 cereals decreased from €80 billion in 2022 to €59 billion in 2023 – a reduction of nearly 30%.

It was in this context that there was a sudden change to the GAEC 8 rule last week to appease tractor protestors to allow the 4% fallow land to be planted.

Irish tillage farmers are in that sinking boat, but on a national scale, they don’t have the power of significance like the EU farmers have.

What has been done for Irish tillage farmers so far is only plugging holes in the boat – time now to address the sinking ship.

Very wet weather is making ground conditions very mucky in most parts of the country and prohibiting tillage farmers from getting out on fields.

So at the moment everything is going against tillage farmers with little short term sign of respite.

Answers badly needed on ACRES payment

Sheep and suckler farmers depend on environmental schemes as income. It keeps the lights on, the livestock fed and problems solved.

Planners get paid, teams of people watching farmers undertake ACRES measures get paid, but farmers don’t get paid.

The silence from the Department is deafening. Our limited understanding of the problem is that the money is there but the infrastructure to divvy it out is simply not able to handle the numbers. So 18,000 co-operation ACRES farmers await payment and another 10,000 ordinary ACRES farmers are no better off.

What was a very positive journey of involvement in farming for a better environment is in danger of turning into a difficult mess.