The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has ruled out increasing the ceiling for eligible land under the Straw Incorporation Measure.

The issue was raised in the Seanad today (Wednesday, December 1, 2021) by Senator Garret Ahearn, where he called for the scheme to be made permanent.

Currently, tillage farmers who are part of the €10 million scheme are paid €250/ha to chop and incorporate oats, rye, wheat or barley into the soil. The payment for oilseed rape stands at €150/ha.

The minimum amount of land that can be included in the Straw Incorporation Measure is 5ha, while the maximum amount is 40ha.

The Fine Gael representative from Tipperary asked if the overall budget would be increased because of the level of interest from tillage farmers.

He also queried why oilseed rape was being paid at a lower level compared to other crops.

The senator said:

“Albeit this year has been a good year for tillage farming, that’s not always the case and a scheme like this gives a certain level of certainty to farmers,”

Senator Ahearn said one of the main requests he had is increasing the eligible land ceiling that each grain grower can apply for.

He pointed to full-time tillage farmers in Tipperary who would have “quite a sizable farm” and see the opportunity from an environmental point of view and also for certainty of payment.

Straw scheme payout

In response, Minister McConalogue said approximately €8.5 million will be paid out this year to tillage farmers who took part in the scheme, which has been a success in terms of the environment and supporting incomes.

“I believe in the long-term success of the Straw Incorporation Measure, that is why I have incorporated it into the new CAP Strategic Plan as a permanent measure,” McConalogue stated.

“This will ensure that [the scheme] will be available for the duration of between 2023 and 2027 and in the meantime, I will be continuing it next year too,” the minister added.

Eligible land ceiling

“The ceiling of 40ha was decided upon to ensure that the measure is available to as many farmers as possible,” the minister continued.

“If someone applies with 40ha, they would be getting €10,000 which is very significant support in terms of income,” he added.

The minister said an increase in the eligible hectares at this time isn’t warranted as the data from applications indicated that the average farm size was less than 20ha.

“I believe any increase in the eligible maximum area per farm would limit the possibility for all applicants availing of the measure and I want to be conscious of that as well,” the minister said.

The agriculture minster said he wanted as many farmers as possible to have the opportunity to avail of the measure without the need to impose rank and selection criteria, if it is over-subscribed.

He added that he expects an increase in the number of applicants next year following on from the success of the pilot scheme.