Poor returns, due to low cereal yields and prices, has seen many tillage farmers struggle to hold onto their Basic Payments in 2016, according to Teagasc’s Frank O’Meara.

The Teagasc Director of Research spoke at the National Tillage Conference in Kilkenny today.

O’Meara said 2016 had been a very difficult year for tillage farmers due to mixed weather, which resulted in some crops being lost or only salvaged during last autumn’s harvest.

Along with poor weather conditions at harvest, he also said that a cold spring had a negative impact on crop yields last year, with Irish yields falling by 15% on 2015 levels.

Last year the average tillage farmer would have struggled to hold on to their Basic Payment monies, with the average family farm income for tillage farmers sitting at about €25,000.

The Teagasc representative also touched on the issue of Brexit and the uncertainty that has arisen due to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

“Brexit will undoubtedly have some impact on commodity markets such as the beef and mushroom sectors.

“It probably won’t have too big of an impact in terms of cereals, as we don’t trade a lot of cereals with the UK and we are trading on the world market,” he said.

However, an area of concern he touched on was the impact Brexit will have on the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget.

“Britain currently contributes €10 billion to the Common Agricultural Policy budget every year.”

When Britain leaves the EU single-market, he said, it will no longer be required to contribute funds to the CAP budget and this could have a very significant impact on the amount of money available from the EU.

It is likely that the Common Agricultural Policy Budget will fall and have a negative impact on the sectors that are dependent on Basic Payments.