Tillage: Odds are stacked against European farmers
Published 04/05/2016 | 02:30
Europe wants quality food, cheap food and environmental protection - and all at the same time.
Compliance with regulations and introduction of new legislation is now so commonplace that few questions are asked when yet another product is banned. Chlorpyrifos, which most knew as Dursban, had a final use by date of March 31, 2016. Last year tillage farmers were advised that if prethroids failed to control aphids in spring crops to follow up with either chlopyrifos or pirimicarb. So while we still have pirimicarb we are ok? I'm afraid not. Next year pirimicarb is likely to be banned.
The result will be that according as resistance to pyrethroids increases we will have no chemical control to kill aphids that transmit Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus. Yields of late sown spring crops (mid April onwards) are likely to suffer a yield penalty of 2t/ha. That in itself should not be a problem for farmers as decreased supply should result in increased price. However the price of grain, nor of any agricultural product, is not determined by European supply.
Price is determined by world supply and the world, outside of Europe, does not have a ban on chlopyriphos nor does it have a ban on many other products that we are not allowed to use - hormones to boost beef and milk production, GM varieties .
Given that the rest of the world does not appear to be concerned about products that Europe has banned it is unrealistic to expect that we would get a premium price for our products except for niche markets.
Our regulators, though, see fit - on environmental grounds and or risk to humans - to ban European farmers from using them. It would be logical then to expect that there would be a ban on the importation of raw materials or finished foods that have been produced using those substances. That is not the case.
We have a strange situation where a tillage/beef farmer is not allowed to use GM varieties of maize when sowing a crop yet is buying a ration that contains GM maize.
The farmer who grew that GM maize had a higher yield potential at lower cost/t than the European farmer yet the European farmer can use the product for animal production and put that animal into the European food chain.