The inaugural meeting of the Food Vision Tillage Group takes place today (Thursday, May 9), with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue expected to attend.
The rationale for the new organisation has been well rehearsed, so the last thing we need is for it to become a talking shop.
The ‘wants’ of the tillage industry are very clear. The scope to expand the sector is immense. And, to this end, Ireland’s Climate Action Plan already envisages an expansion of the sector’s footprint to 400,000ha by 2030.
Tillage group needs to make decisions
The following subject areas will also tick a box, where the new grouping is concerned: Growing more protein crops, adding real value to the crops that we grow, and putting a clear focus on organic tillage.
But none of this will happen until tillage farmers are provided with the opportunity to compete effectively for the conacre ground they need to survive right now – never mind expand into the future.
All of this comes back to the implementation of the new nitrates regulations and the need for all farming sectors to be put on a level playing field in this context.
So whether it’s a case of Revenue stepping up to the plate and making something happen or the agriculture minister pushing change through his own department, decisions need to be taken on behalf of tillage farmers.
And the clock is ticking.
Rather than waiting for a final report, which could take ages to complete and publish, I see no reason why the tillage group cannot issue recommendations on a rolling basis.
And this is something that the members of the organisation should agree from the get-go.
Meanwhile, 2022/2023 are turning out to be challenging years for the tillage sector. Last October’s heavy rains hampered autumn planting plans on many farms.
And this issue was compounded by the equally poor weather that impacted across the entire country during March.
Now we are hearing that spring barley crops planted out over the last few weeks will be heavily exposed to a Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) attack.
On the back of all this, it has been projected that Ireland’s grain harvest in 2023 could be back by 20% year-on-year.
Personally, I think this could be an under-estimate. There are some very poor winter wheat and barley crops in situ at the present time. And late-sown spring barley crops were never going to reach optimal yields, irrespective of BYDV.
All it would take now is a poor weather window to really to put the cat among the pigeons for cereal growers at harvest time. But hopefully, this will not be the case; nature has a habit of balancing itself out.