There isn’t a whole lot of detail about tillage in the Programme for Government, but there are some positives to take.
First of all, while it doesn’t come under tillage specifically there is an outline under the CAP to “seek reforms to the CAP to reward farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity, improving water and air quality, producing clean energy, and developing schemes that support results-based outcomes”.
Being rewarded for carbon sequestration will no doubt be welcomed by tillage farmers planting crops and improving soil health. It could also result in a further increase in the area of cover crops planted over winter which could, in turn, help to improve biodiversity and benefit soil health, as well as water and air quality.
The programme goes on to say that it will “continue to support farmers to embrace farming practices that are beneficial environmentally, that have a lower carbon footprint and that better utilise and protect natural resources”.
Tillage is one of the sectors that could be impacted most by the Farm to Fork strategy announced by the EU. Support will, therefore, be crucial.
Focus on organics and Irish produce
The programme also states that it will “focus particularly on maximising potential opportunities in the organic sector, the supply of quality Irish grains to an expanding food and drinks industry, and opportunities for home-grown proteins in animal feeds”.
The document outlines that support will be provided for the sector into the next CAP through “on-farm investment, the development of producer groups, animal welfare measures, and marketing tools such as Protected Geographical Indicator status”.
The ‘Geographical Indication’ of Irish whiskey has no requirement for Irish grain. A review of the technical file would no doubt be welcomed by Irish grain farmers.
Climate-smart cultivation methods
The document also outlines that the Government will “work to increase the adoption, at farm level, of Teagasc
recommendations for climate-smart cultivation methods”.
No tillage forum
AgriLand noted that, under dairy, the plan asserts that the Government will “work with dairy farmers and other stakeholders through the Dairy Forum to consider emerging challenges and continue to focus on developing new markets”.
However, there is no mention of a tillage forum. The last time that the tillage forum came together was in February 2017.
Surely a forum for all sectors is needed. Representatives of all agricultural sectors need to consider emerging challenges and focus on developing new markets.
There was no mention of convergence in the 126-page document. Convergence will have a huge impact on tillage farm incomes, which heavily rely on the Basic Payment Scheme.
Productive farms, operating at high standards, that are sequestering carbon and providing biodiversity will need to be rewarded.
Horticulture gets a passing mention. The plan outlines that the Government will “review the supports available to the horticultural sector and encourage greater expansion and growth in this sector, supplying both the domestic and international market”.
The programme also outlines a commitment to “invest in the promotion of Irish horticultural products and enhance capital investment available to horticultural producers”.
On the topic of fibre crops, the document stated: “We will fully explore the potential for growing fibre crops such as hemp – considering whether these crops have a viable market.”