The Agriculture Minister has confirmed that farmers are being urged to consider planting crops this year to help the agri-food sector become more self-sufficient in grain supplies.
But the move has been questioned by farming organizations including the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue has called a meeting of farming associations for Tuesday to discuss the disruption to the sector and the current market situation resulting from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“I have asked members of the main farming bodies to attend a meeting in my department on Tuesday to assess the situation and consider how we can work closely and together in the period ahead.”
It was also confirmed that a Rapid Response Team, led by Secretary-General Brendan Gleeson, has been set up within the Department and will report to the Secretary to actively monitor the evolution of the situation.
“At times like these, food is our most important resource, so as a Department we are taking all possible proactive steps to ensure we are agile and able to respond to this rapidly evolving situation,” Minister McConalogue said.
However, IFA President Tim Cullinan said that given media reports that farmers may be asked to plant crops this year to alleviate a potential crop shortage in Europe, there has been no discussion with farmers on the matter.
“It would be very unwise for the government to make any decisions on this before dealing fully with farmers,” he warned.
“We are in very challenging times and farmers will certainly contribute to national or European efforts,” he said.
“However, it is far from certain that asking all farmers to plant crops is the best use of the resources we likely have at our disposal,” he said.
“The biggest problem for farmers is the exploding costs and the availability of inputs. That’s what the government needs to focus its efforts on and review some of its own regulations,” he said.
“Irish farming is very different from what it was in the 1940s. What was done then may not be the solution today,” he said.
ICMSA President Pat McCormack said farmers would engage with the proposals but warned it “must be practicable and feasible”.
However, he dismissed suggestions that the move to convert more land to arable production might involve a reduction in the number of dairy cows.
Earlier this week Minister McConalogue attended a meeting of European agriculture ministers to discuss the Ukraine crisis. At the meeting, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski confirmed that market support measures under the GMO regulations would be made available when needed.
Minister McConalogue said he welcomed the Commissioner’s commitment to support the farming sector and had written to the Commissioner after the EU Council of Ministers meeting to ensure any assistance to support the sector could be made available swiftly.
“I will continue to work with my European colleagues to provide support where needed,” the minister said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/its-far-from-certain-that-asking-farmers-to-plant-crops-is-the-best-use-of-our-resources-41416873.html “It is far from certain that asking farmers to grow crops is the best use of our resources”