This week, newly-appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Darragh Calleary, stated that he believes in convergence. However, he did state that he has asked that he be given options on the process.

Commenting on the minister’s remarks, the Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG) told AgriLand that convergence would have a negative effect on the tillage industry.

The group described convergence as short-sighted and described how a decline in support for the tillage sector would lead to exits from the sector of small and medium-sized farmers and therefore a loss in tillage land.

A statement to AgriLand read: “The minister’s comments on convergence completely contradict the principles of the next round of the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy], which is to be environmentally led and focused on the ‘active’ farmer.

According to the Department of Agriculture, tillage farmers will be worst affected by any convergence measures.

“As CAP is such an important part of the full-time, active farmer’s income, any cut to it will likely push small or medium growers into part-time farming or leasing the farm entirely and becoming armchair farmers, the very thing that CAP is trying to avoid.”

Negative impact on the environment

The group stated that tillage farmers’ payments need to be protected.

A further loss of tillage area will have a deeper environmental impact.

“Convergence is a very short-sighted strategy, and if the minister is serious about achieving the results set out in Farm to Fork and the emissions targets set out in the Programme for Government, protecting payments for farmers and keeping full-time, active tillage farmers should be a priority.

“Losing more tillage area will lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions per hectare if diverted to grassland and more dependence on our already increasing imports of grain, thus putting our Origin Green status further into the spotlight.

The minister, his fellow party deputies and his fellow government deputies should consider the broader impact of convergence.

The IGGG described how if convergence is pushed it will need to support the tillage sector.

“If this government pushes ahead with convergence it must also illustrate how it is going to support a dwindling tillage sector; a sector that will be particularly needed to help cultivate the EU’s recently announced ambitious plans on biodiversity and Farm to Fork,” the group concluded.

Minister’s remarks

Speaking to AgriLand this week, the minister stated: “I personally believe in convergence; I’ve asked for options to be prepared here in relation to convergence during transition. I’ve asked the officials here to give me the options on that…and we’ll make decisions on that.

“But my party believes in it; I believe in it – but it has to be done collaboratively as well.”