The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to provide relief for farmers affected by difficult weather conditions. The IFA specifically urged Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, to extend deadlines for the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) and review catch crop requirements. Michael Biggins, Chair of the IFA’s national rural development committee, emphasized the need for flexibility due to challenging sowing conditions caused by heavy rainfall.
Biggins highlighted several ACRES measures that require the establishment of protected margins and sowing of suitable seed mix by August 31. However, he noted that many farmers have been unable to sow seeds or erect protected fences due to the wet soil conditions. Therefore, he proposed that the minister extend the deadlines to allow the ground to dry up and give impacted farmers some breathing space. Biggins also emphasized the need for similar flexibility in the planting of catch crops, as the current grazing requirements are deemed “unworkable” by the IFA.
The IFA expects that a significant portion of the 22,000 hectares committed to catch crops among ACRES still needs to be planted before the September 15 deadline. Biggins called on the minister to provide assurance to farmers that they will not be in breach of GAEC 6 conditionality if they are unable to fully meet the new catch-crop grazing requirements. He suggested using the Area Monitoring System (AMS) technology to avoid unnecessary appeals or reliance on inspector interpretation. Biggins also warned that insisting on grass-only lie-back for catch crops would make it economically and operationally unviable for specialist tillage growers and have a significant impact on the store-lamb trade.
The IFA believes that the farming sector is already facing financial and operational challenges, and additional regulatory pressures would only exacerbate the situation. Farmers feel that they are being regulated out of existence, and the IFA urges DAFM to provide support and flexibility to ensure their livelihoods are not further compromised.