Opinion: Creed must back Irish tillage farmers

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed must make the call on behalf of Irish tillage farmers at next Monday’s Agricultural Council Meeting in Brussels.

And it’s a very simple demand to make of the European Commission: give us the money or use national resources to set up an emergency fund for cereal farmers in Ireland.

I don’t think Minister Creed will find himself alone if he goes down this road.

There now seems every possibility that the UK, Germany, France and Belgium will want additional support made available for tillage farmers within their own jurisdictions.

But even if support from these quarters fails to materialise, Minister Creed must make the case for a realistic tillage support package on behalf of Irish farmers next week.

Hopefully, by next Monday, he will have some accurate figures to hand regarding the scale of the crisis now unfolding within the tillage sector.

Irrespective of what’s been happening at individual farm level, vis-à-vis actual field inspections, Teagasc staff should already have a pretty firm handle on the scale of the crop losses incurred by cereal growers this year.

Let’s be clear about this: if Minister Creed is not able to quantify the scale of the crisis confronting tillage farmers by next Monday, then the decision makers in Brussels will simply kick for touch.

And that means putting the issue of the crisis fund on the long finger.

But, assuming Minister Creed does call for the establishment of a tillage crisis fund, it will take months for Brussels to make a final decision on the matter.

One has only to look at the way in which Europe handled the most recent dairy crisis.

Milk prices went into free fall at the tail end of 2014. Yet, the initial EU-wide response package only came on stream last December.

Given this track record, it is unlikely that the EU will green light a support package for Irish tillage farmers until, at least, the middle of next year.

In the meantime, it is incumbent on every affected grower to take whatever steps are necessary to have the scale of this year’s crop losses independently assessed and recorded by Teagasc.

And the sooner this is done the better.