Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Devastation for up to 500 tillage farmers who have lost their entire crops

IFA President Joe Healy inspecting crops after poor harvest. Image: IFA
IFA President Joe Healy inspecting crops after poor harvest. Image: IFA
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The plight facing tillage farmers hit the floor of the Dail this week with the Government called on to acknowledge the plight of these farmers and bring forward the funding to support them.

Fianna Fail Agriculture Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue said it is estimated that up to 500 farmers have lost their entire crops as a result of the bad weather.

“There are significant issues in the supports that are required to keep those farmers in business.

“I know that the IFA and other farming organisations have been in touch with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

“This is a matter I have raised previously on the floor of the House.

“Unfortunately, the Government has not come forward with the type of supports required to keep these farmers in business and ensure that they can meet bills.

“I am talking particularly about those who have actually lost crops this autumn.

The loan funding which has been flagged for the start of next year will not meet their requirements, he said and stressed that there are particular funds required.

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In response, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny said the Government “recognises the difficulties of grain farmers in particular this year”.

“In some parts of the country, it was impossible to get any grain out,” he said.

The Taoiseach said the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is meeting with tillage farmers and has met with them.

Further he said that is why the Minister for Finance inserted into the Finance Bill a gap year, which will allow for farmers to be able to write off - as it has been effectively written off - a particular year in which things were very bad.

“These are issues that the Government does recognise.

 “Obviously, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will keep a close eye on the matter,” he said.

'They walked away - they had no choice, they just gave up'

The exodus from tillage can be plainly seen from Gilbert Smyth's contracting business in Co Carlow where over the past few years eight of his regular customers have left the enterprise and put their land into grass.

"They were all 10, 15 or 20ac men and they all just walked away because of the low prices they were getting for their grain. They had no choice. They just gave up," says Mr Smyth.

"They were making a few bob from their crops but then, because of the depressed prices, they had to bring their cheque books on every visit to the merchants because they were making no money," he adds. While the small producers are mainly affected, the low grain price is working its way up the acreage ladder, he explains. "Nobody in tillage is winning," he says.

Ironically, Mr Smyth's contracting work usually subsidised his tillage and beef operation in Bagenalstown. Now growers are exiting tillage and he can't see the dropout rate decreasing any time soon.

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