An extensive equipment grant scheme will open for farmers to make applications before April, said IFA National Grain Committee Chairman Liam Dunne last week — as he commented on a Co Cork-led campaign seeking better deal for tillage farmers.
The upcoming TAMS scheme for investment in grain storage and precision and low impact tillage equipment by arable crop farmers will be the first big tillage grant scheme for more than 10 years.
It results from amendments to Ireland’s rural development programme, following lobbying by farmers.
Mr Dunne said, “Poor world grain prices have decimated growers’ margins over the last three years. Minister Coveney must ensure the speedy opening of the scheme as grant-aided investment is critical in helping growers to restore competitiveness while reducing the sector’s carbon and environmental footprint.
“Growers supply quality grain, oilseeds and proteins for use in Ireland’s livestock, milling, malting, brewing and distilling industries.
Our tillage farmers are world-class operators but they work in a very challenging environment, competing against world prices.
They have to contend with extreme price and income volatility in addition to the vagaries of the Irish weather.”
Tillage farmer pressure after their sector was largely ignored in the TAMS 2 grant scheme launches in 2015 has paid off, said Mr Dunne, convincing Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to put his full weight behind a tillage TAMS scheme.
No TAMS for tillage in 2015 was one of the setbacks which led Co Cork farmers Jim O’Regan, Kinsale; Anthony Collins, Killeagh; Dan Joe O’Sullivan, Bandon; Jerry Donovan, Ovens; and Leonard Draper, Ballineen, into a campaign to ensure that tillage farmers are not forgotten, which 223 of their grain grower colleagues in Co Cork have signed up to.
But Mr Dunne has refuted their charge that IFA would be happy to see tillage farmers kept at subsistence levels to provide cheap feed for the dairy and livestock sectors.
He said low grain prices is the last thing Irish livestock farmers want, because it makes Ireland’s grass-based livestock production less competitive compared to grain-based production in other countries.
He also noted that Irish grain prices compare favourably with other EU member states, currently at €150-160 per tonne for dried barley and wheat compared to €100-130 in Belgium, for example.
He also defended IFA’s record in getting the best possible CAP reform deal for tillage farmers, pointing to winter cover under GLAS being equivalent to crop diversification, and thus avoiding the inefficiencies of two and three crop diversification rules for growers.
He said this equivalence has been achieved only by Ireland and Poland, and noted that GLAS priority access was also achieved, for arable farmers with greater than 30 hectares who choose either minimum tillage (10ha) or catch crops (10ha).
Mr Dunne said GLAS enables many tillage farmers cancel out reductions in their area payments with minimal loss of production area, and he added that preferential Ecological Focus Areas treatment was also negotiated for Ireland in the CAP reform, such as one metre of hedgerow being equivalent to 10m of EFA.
* Survival in tillage in Ireland” will be the theme of an IFA-organised meeting in the Anner Hotel, Dublin Road, Thurles, 5-9pm, next Thursday, February 25.
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