The prospect of a fifth consecutive year of low grain prices will see many growers struggle to cover production costs, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

A delegation from the IFA went before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to discuss the future of the tillage sector in Ireland yesterday evening (Tuesday, September 26).

IFA President Joe Healy called on the government to introduce an action plan to address the “serious and deepening income crisis in the Irish tillage farming sector” as soon as possible.

The committee gathered as many farmers are still trying to harvest crops around the country. Weather conditions have deteriorated further in some areas today, with heavy rain falling.

The prospect of grain prices improving in the near future does not look good, Healy added. The forecast for high world carry-over stocks, along with intense competition from the Baltics / Black Sea region, means the outlook for change in this price trend is not positive, he explained.

Specific actions must be taken to build a solid foundation from which we can revitalise the tillage sector, the IFA President urged.

Failure to develop and implement a plan in a prompt and meaningful fashion will accelerate the decline of crop production particularly in peripheral counties, further reducing biodiversity and threatening the potential to expand our livestock sector and world-renowned drinks industry.

National policy is needed to instil confidence in growers and to show that the government is serious about revitalising the tillage sector, Healy said.

An increased reliance on grain and non-grain feed ingredient imports will undermine the provenance of the Irish food brand, he warned.

Action plan

The eight-point action plan revealed by the IFA, which it believes will be critical to the survival of tillage farming in Ireland, calls for the temporary abolition of the clawback on the sale of entitlements for tillage farmers who need to raise funds or “stand back from taking over-priced conacre”.

Meanwhile, the organisation is also in favour of the stacking of entitlements being reintroduced as an option for tillage farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020.

It also called for a derogation for Ireland on greening requirements, given our difficult climatic conditions, as well as the reintroduction of the low-cost loan scheme.

Full support from all industry stakeholders for the use of native Irish grain is needed for the sector to thrive, the IFA added.

Other actions the IFA is calling for include: the abolition of tariffs on fertiliser imports; the retention of key active ingredients including glyphosate, triazoles and diquat; as well as the suspension of anti-dumping duties on ammonium nitrate.