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Growers seek support from Government for unharvested crops

Farmers across the country are fighting to save their crops as a result of incredibly difficult weather conditions experienced this year.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/farming/arid-41260261.html

WED, 01 NOV, 2023 – 12:25

KATHLEEN O’SULLIVAN

Growers are seeking Government support for those unable to harvest crops.

The Irish Grain Growers Group (IGGG) met with Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue and senior Department of Agriculture officials in recent days, with the group saying it is “confident that the minister will put in place a mechanism” whereby those tillage farmers affected will “receive specific financial support”. 

Farmers across the country are fighting to save their crops as a result of incredibly difficult weather conditions experienced this year; particularly in the aftermath of Storm Babet recently which left lands, businesses, and homes flooded.

The IGGG has said this week that while “no amount of support will compensate actually harvesting a crop”, it is urging for a package from Government that “will go some way to compensate for the loss of income”. 

In the meeting with the department, the IGGG said that its main focus was to “ensure those that got hit hardest this harvest got priority support, however, we did also push the case in general for tillage farmers on the very difficult season just gone by”.

‘Struggling’

IGGG chairman Bobby Miller told the Irish Examiner that farmers are “struggling into the new season”.

The harvest for this year “is done, we can’t envision any more crops being harvested”, and a lot of farmers “haven’t got their crops for next year into the ground”.

“The mood is low at the minute. We’re facing a lot of uncertainty again into 2024 with world events, the cost of production, grain prices are still drifting lower, so we’re concerned,” Mr Miller said.

“It’s just too unstable at the minute.”

Supports in place

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr McConalogue said he wants to work with farmer representatives to ensure “we target funding made available at Government level in a way that provides the support to those who most need it”.

“Earlier this year, I specifically requested and secured support for the sector from the EU agriculture reserve in light of the significant challenges relating to the weather and harvest this year. A support package of €7.1m has been allocated to the sector under this fund,” Mr McConalogue said. 

“A one-off flat-rate payment of €28 per hectare will be made on the area of oilseed rape, winter and spring barley, wheat and rye declared under the BISS this year. Payments will be made on a minimum area of five hectares and capped at 100 hectares per grower.

“In the budget announced two weeks ago, I secured an additional €8m in funding that will be specifically targeted at the sector. I am currently engaging with farming organisations on the best way to utilise this funding.” 

BAR fund

He said that if there are ways of drawing down Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) funding for the sector he “would do so, but we are talking here about a particular weather event rather than a Brexit event”.

“I have been working to make sure that I could pull down every bit of funding possible. We are by far the largest spender in relation to the BAR fund and if there is any other way of spending more, I am keen to explore that,” Mr McConalogue continued. 

“The deadline for expenditure within the BAR is the end of this year but we will try to make sure that it continues to be available to the country in another format as we go forward.”

Crop insurance

The IGGG also raised the matter of crop insurance in Ireland to cover weather events going forward with the minister. 

“There was provision made by the EU in negotiations of the current CAP to consider same,” the group said.

“It was met with no appetite by those present at the time. We believe this should be brought back to the table under CAP review and perhaps explore the possibility with those who provide farm insurance here in Ireland.

“Met Eireann has recently confirmed that weather patterns have changed so we must plan for change. This past season just proves our point to consider crop insurance going forward.”

Carbon tax

The group has also put forward a case to apply a carbon tax to imports of grains/feedstuffs from outside the EU “in a step to recognise the low carbon footprint and unique provenance of native Irish grain and pulses”.

“We suggested that the tax collected should be distributed to active Irish tillage farmers in the form of eco/environmental-related programmes to help achieve climate change targets.

“The European Green Deal and the Irish Climate Action Plan give provision to use taxation as a method to achieve climate goals.”

The group plans on holding regional meetings across the country for farmers in the coming months to hold discussions on matters of concern.