Tillage farms have high­est re­liance on di­rect pay­ments, con­fer­ence told

But av­er­age fam­ily farm in­come of €37,158 in tillage sec­tor is sec­ond only to dairy, writes CHLOROTHALONIL BAN WOULD HIT YIELD HARD

Irish Independent - Farming - - TILLAGE - Cather­ine Hur­ley

MORE than €6 out of ev­ery €10 in­come in the tillage sec­tor still comes in the form of di­rect pay­ments for the spe­cial­ist grower, farm­ers at the Na­tional Tillage Con­fer­ence in Co Kilkenny heard.

De­spite tillage farms be­ing re­liant on sub­si­dies and con­sis­tently col­lect­ing the high­est di­rect pay­ments of all sec­tors, some 80pc of farms were seen to be eco­nom­i­cally vi­able, ac­cord­ing to data pre­sented by Tea­gasc re­search of­fi­cer Fiona Thorne.

The tillage sec­tor recorded an av­er­age fam­ily farm in­come of €37,158. It ranked in sec­ond place of the farm­ing sec­tors, but it falls far short of the av­er­age dairy farm in­come of €86,115, ac­cord­ing to Tea­gasc’s 2017 Na­tional Farm Sur­vey fig­ures.

Ms Thorne (pic­tured) also warned that 11pc of tillage farms were classed as vul­ner­a­ble ac­cord­ing to 2017 statis­tics.

“What we see from the statis­tics is that spe­cial­ist tillage farms come in af­ter dairy farms in terms of fam­ily farm in­come, with fam­ily farm in­come on dairy farms just shy of €90,000 in 2017 and our spe­cial­ist tillage farms strug­gling to have a fam­ily farm in­come of €40,000,” she said.

“Fam­ily farm in­come is the in­come that’s left over at the farm gate, to re­mu­ner­ate all the owned re­sources that are on the farm.”

Di­rect pay­ments ac­counted for 63pc of spe­cial­ist tillage farm in­come in 2017, Ms Thorne ex­plained.

“Spe­cial­ist tillage farms — I don’t think it comes as any news to you all — have the high­est re­liance on di­rect pay­ments on a euro per hectare ba­sis,” she said.

“We’re talk­ing about 63pc of our in­come com­ing from di­rect pay­ments in 2017, and that moves up and down de­pend­ing on the year that we’re deal­ing with, but it’s al­ways a hefty por­tion.

“Even though it’s not as bad as the dry­s­tock sec­tor, six out of ev­ery €10 still comes in the form of di­rect pay­ments for the spe­cial­ist tillage sec­tor.”

The ever-press­ing is­sue of Brexit was raised by Guy Smith, deputy pres­i­dent of the UK’s Na­tional Farm­ers Union

The Es­sex arable farmer said that although he feels Bri­tish farm­ers are tired of the pro­longed talks around Brexit, they “voted with their hearts” and that if there was to be an­other vote, the re­sult may be the same.

“I don’t think it will change, they voted with their heart… I think they are fed up of Brexit but we must not make rushed de­ci­sions.

“We do not want a hard Brexit — at best it would be high-risk for our in­dus­try and at worst it will be cat­a­strophic, and ev­ery­thing must be done to stop it hap­pen­ing.”

Mr Smith’s main con­cern was the im­pli­ca­tions of any hur­ried de­ci­sions.

“The de­ci­sions we are mak­ing in the next few weeks could colour how our farm­ers are op­er­at­ing for the next few decades. Now is not the time to make rushed de­ci­sions,” he said.

“As Bri­tish farm­ers we ex­pect to have high stan­dards, and are proud to have them. The prob­lem is they are as­so­ci­ated with higher costs, and if we are not pro­tected with a WTO wall we are in com­pe­ti­tion with Amer­ica and South Amer­ica.”

Mr Smith added that even if the UK do leave the EU they will be shad­ow­ing de­ci­sions made on key ac­tive ingredients.

“It’s clear to me that the way pes­ti­cides are be­ing reg­u­lated is more and more politi­cised,” he said.

“What we need to re­mem­ber, as we di­min­ish the num­ber of ac­tives that farm­ers have ac­cess to, is that we are lim­it­ing the life of the ones that are left.

“If we exit the EU, we will shadow what is hap­pen­ing in re­la­tion to th­ese re­stric­tions.” RE­SEARCH shows that based on cur­rent fungi­cide chemistries it is es­ti­mated that the po­ten­tial loss of chlorothalonil would re­sult in a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in net mar­gins, ac­cord­ing to Tea­gasc se­nior re­searcher Steven Kildea.

Farm­ers would suf­fer a sig­nif­i­cant loss in dis­ease con­trol and also yield, he warned.

Within the Euro­pean Union all crop pro­tec­tion chemistries must meet spe­cific cri­te­ria set out by Reg­u­la­tion 1107/2009, such as po­ten­tial im­pacts on hu­man and en­vi­ron­ment health, prior to their au­tho­ri­sa­tion, he ex­plained at the Na­tional Tillage Con­fer­ence.

“There’s in­creased cri­te­ria that th­ese pes­ti­cides have to over­come to get on the mar­ket; the way they are be­ing as­sessed has also changed,” he said.

It is an­tic­i­pated in the com­ing years, when some of the chemistries in wide use to­day come up for re­view, they will not pass the strict cri­te­ria.

Fur­ther­more, the devel­op­ment of re­sis­tance in all three pest cat­e­gories is fur­ther re­duc­ing the avail­abil­ity of ef­fec­tive crop pro­tec­tion chemistries.

Mr Kildea said it is of ut­most im­por­tance that all means that re­duce re­sis­tance devel­op­ment and spread is im­ple­mented.

He said to min­imise th­ese po­ten­tial re­duc­tions, in­creased em­pha­sis must now be placed on va­ri­etal re­sis­tance, agro­nomic prac­tices such as sow­ing date, and care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to fungi­cide ap­pli­ca­tion tim­ing.


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