Any tillage crisis fund that is introduced ‘must be as accessible as possible’

If and when a tillage crisis fund is established, the scheme must be as easily accessible as possible, according to one tillage farmer who suffered devastating losses last year.

Eamon Burke farms near Corrandulla in Co. Galway; he is just one of a number of tillage farmers who lost large amounts of their crops last year, because of the poor weather conditions at harvest time.

Having sowed approximately 300ac of land with spring barley and spring oats early in 2016, Burke was put under significant pressure following the disastrous harvest.

Yields of 0.9t/ac were harvested from the spring barley crop, while yields dropped to about 0.7t/ac for spring oats, Burke said.

It was almost a complete wipe-out. There was a storm on the first Sunday in September and it knocked everything in its path.

“There were only three harvestable days in all of September. Even though it was dry, you couldn’t dream of harvesting because of the condition of the crops,” he added.

Facing into 2017

Because of these poor weather conditions, the majority of what Burke had spent to sow and take care of the crops up until harvest time – approximately €400/ac – vanished. The effects of this loss are still being felt well into 2017, he added.

“We were stilling looking at the remains of last year’s crop when we were putting the plough into the ground this spring. It cost us an extra €30-40/ac, on top of what it normally costs, to get crops into the ground this year.

It’s all costs at the end of the day. We finish about 50 cattle every year, normally we wouldn’t buy in feed. But last year we had to and it was just another cost we didn’t need.

Burke farms on all leased land, so the losses suffered during the harvest in 2016 mounted on top of existing bills.

“In other enterprises you will always have a product to sell; you might make loss, but you will be able to make that up somewhere else. But we had virtually nothing to sell last year.

“The year so far has been very tight. You’re trying to spread money around and keep everyone happy,” he said.

The cashflow difficulties faced by farmers is something Burke is well aware of, as he also runs a contracting business.

Potential tillage crisis fund

The potential establishment of a tillage crisis fund for farmers who suffered significant losses last year would be “better than nothing”, according to Burke.

He warned that the application process to a potential tillage crisis fund must be as farmer-friendly as possible.

The fact that there is a relatively small number of farmers who could qualify for funding, compared to the number of tillage farmers in the country, should mean the amount of paper work is kept to a minimum, he added.

If affected farmers were able to attain a reported maximum payment of €15,000/head, it would only partially cover the losses that occurred last year, Burke said.

He also commended the work farm organisations have put in to advancing a potential tillage crisis fund to this stage. Tillage farmers just need a good outcome to arise from this as quickly and as conveniently as possible, Burke concluded.