The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has accused the European Commission of sending ‘mixed messages’ to farmers, with its latest moves on plant protection.

Yesterday (June 22), the commission announced proposals to halve the use of chemical pesticides by 2030. New measures seek to ensure that all farmers apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and therefore consider alternative methods before using chemical pesticides

IFA Environment Committee chair, Paul O’Brien, said: “It’s only a few months since tillage farmers were being encouraged to sow more crops in response to the impact on the supply chain caused by the war in Ukraine.

“Farmers who have invested in extra crops need to protect those crops if they are to make a return.”

EU Commission policy of food security

O’Brien said fears around food security are well-founded and have to feature in any policy decision.

Proposals by the commission transform the existing Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive into a regulation, which will be directly applicable in all EU member states

“[Agriculture] Commissioner [Janusz] Wojciechowski was explicit when he addressed [the IFA] national council last month – ‘the EU Farm to Fork policy will have to be re-visited in light of food security concerns,’” O’Brien said.

“Yet again we have the commission bringing forward changes, but only vague assurances around support for farmers.

“Their unwillingness to carry out a full assessment is a big worry for farmers,” he added.

IFA Grain Committee chair Kieran McEvoy added that growing crops in a temperate climate like Ireland carries risks, which can be mitigated with the use of plant protection.

“It’s an important tool for farmers. Without it, yields will drop off significantly. The Joint Research Centre estimates they could drop by as much as 50%,” McEvoy said.

“We want to promote the use of native grains as much as possible. Reducing crop production across the EU, only for other global regions to step in, would be a massive mistake.”