‘Tillage farmers will not be scapegoated again with another hare-brained scheme’

Tillage farmers will not be scapegoated again with another hare-brained scheme, according to the Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG).

The group was reacting to reports that Bord na Mona is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set up a new grant scheme to promote the growing of willow as an energy crop on Irish farms.

Also Read: New grant scheme to grow willow as an energy crop on the way?

In a statement, the IGGG said: “Is the Government going to put a sort of bond in place to guarantee this project for a minimum of 20 years and write this into law?

Arable farmers will not be scapegoated again with another attempt to reduce the amount of land we farm and to take our land out of production to placate a semi-state company – Bord na Mona.

“This is happening at a time when the area under arable cropping is under severe threat, and we view this as yet another attack at forcing us out of production of fully-traceable, GMO-free food and feed.”

‘Time for the Government to wake up’

It’s time for the Government to wake up to the facts of what the tillage sector has to offer from both an environment and food traceability point of view, according to the IGGG.

This doesn’t even take into account the potential it holds for providing employment and finance for the exchequer, it added.

“The arable sector should not be targeted and used as a future scapegoat for a desktop climate change exercise to placate a semi-state dinosaur, whose role and function has well passed its sell-by-date.

Irish arable farming can tackle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions head on, whilst maintaining output of food and employment – along with broader environmental and economic benefits for the country.

“The proposal to grow second-generation biomass on our land is not the first time farmers were duped by a half-baked scheme.”

The IGGG explained that, in the mid-2000s, a Government-backed scheme encouraged farmers to produce bio-fuel from oilseed rape – introducing a refit tariff to comply with an EU directive.

“Farmers and others invested over €150 million, which was supposed to be Government backed; only a few short years later, it revoked the refit tariff – causing many farmers to lose their livelihoods.

“At the stroke of a pen, the then minister for energy withdrew the support mechanism. These people are still being pursued by the banks and unfortunately some are now deceased because of the undue stress caused,” the group said.

‘Stringent measures’

It stressed that it will oppose any Government-backed scheme to promote the growing of willow, unless stringent measures are put in place that guarantee the long-term viability of such a project.

Concluding, the IGGG said: “No other agricultural sector has seen as many enforced measures recently and every effort must be made to review that policy and encourage small and medium growers to produce [existing crops] sustainably and efficiently, which will benefit the entire environment of Ireland.

“Arable farmers are connected to the environment and the soil; they depend on them for their living. We are constantly trying to improve both for the future.

The acres devoted to tillage is on a serious slide downhill – 14% less in the last five years alone; one third of what it used to be many years ago.

“This cannot be allowed to continue.”