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
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.
THE ESSEX MAN SAID PEOPLE ‘VOTED WITH THEIR HEARTS’ ON BREXIT, AND ANOTHER VOTE WOULD HAVE THE SAME RESULT