Opinion

Why all the fuss over greening?

The last fortnight has seen a very strong media focus on the potential impact of greening on Irish agriculture. And, in truth, it’s all been pretty negative stuff.

The reality is that greening will only impact directly on a very small number of specialist cereal growers: every other farm business in Ireland will qualify for the top up payment automatically due to the fact that permanent grassland accounts for such a high proportion of our total farmed area.

And yes, one could have a degree of sympathy for those specialist tillage farmers who will have to amend their farming practises in light of the new greening regulations. But there is another side to this story.

We now know that this year’s EU cereal acreage is down 8% year on year – a development which has been directly attributed by Copa-Cogeca to the greening measures. Such an eventuality should serve to strengthen barley and wheat prices next back end. And this is good news for tillage farmers.

There is also strong evidence to show that EU supermarkets regard commodity grain prices as the litmus test when it comes to assessing farm production costs. When cereal markets strengthen the multiples are more likely to agree a commensurate hike in retail food prices. And this is good news for Irish agriculture as a whole. As the old saying goes: a rising tide floats all boats.

Stronger European markets for dairy, beef and lamb further accentuate our true advantage when it comes to our ability to produce these products from grazed grass and silage. Overarching all of this is the beneficial impact which lower oil prices will have on most farming related activities over the next year or so.

All of the ‘experts’ are predicting a period of weaker oil prices for the. Let’s hope they got that one right.

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