Govt to set up tillage group amid doubts on land targets
A new group to examine the future of the tillage sector is being established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.
The development comes as doubts have been raised about whether the Climate Action Plan target of increasing the amount of land under tillage by 50,000 hectares by 2030 can be met.
Some tillage farmers seeking to lease land for planting are being outbid by dairy farmers looking for more land.
For some time, competition between tillage and dairy farmers for leased agricultural land has been intense.
Some tillage farmers seeking to renew land leases or to lease extra land for planting have found themselves outbid by their dairy counterparts and fears have been expressed the Climate Action Plan target to increase the area under tillage from 350,000 hectare to 400,000 hectares by 2030 will not be met.
“As far as we’re concerned as tillage farmers the Climate Action Plan is failing after only four months,” said Bobby Miller, Chairperson of the Irish Grain Growers Group.
“The tillage area is going to drop in 2023 from the information that we have gathered.
“Long-term leases are being renewed and short term leases as well and we can’t compete. The market for land has been driven upwards.”
Under new environmental rules to protect water quality many dairy farmers must increase their land area per cow or cut their herd size.
Caitriona Morrisey, News Editor of the Farmers’ Journal, said there is very strong demand for scarce land from both the tillage and dairy sectors.
“The Climate Action Plan has pitched for an increase of 50,000 hectares increase in tillage and at the same time we have new water quality measures that are coming in and they are forcing dairy farmers to go out into the market looking for 30,000 hectares,” she said.
“The water quality measures or the Nitrates Derogation is forcing dairy farmers to either cut their cow numbers which is the same as cutting their income, or else look for more land.”
Against this backdrop the new Food Vision Tillage group is being established by Minister McConalogue.
“From a climate as well as a food and feed security point of view I want to see our tillage sector grow,” he said.
“We have a target to grow the tillage areas to 400,000 hectares as part of the Climate Action Plan, so now is the right time to establish a Food Vision 2030 Tillage group to plot a way forward for the sector.”
The minister previously established similar groups for the dairy, beef and sheep sectors, which put forward recommendations on the future sustainable development of each sector, although not all participants agreed with all recommendations.
No decision on who will chair the new group has been made and it will not meet for a number of weeks.
The Irish Grain Growers Group, which had lobbied for such a group, has welcomed news of its establishment.