Fine Gael Cork East Deputy, Tom Barry, has today (Wednesday) has said that two significant incentives contained in the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) will greatly aid Irish tillage farmers. The RDP, as unveiled by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney TD, includes more than €12.5 billion in funding for the agricultural sector up to 2020.
“The first measure, which I have been lobbying in favour of for some time, will grant-aid storage facilities for tillage farms. The benefits of having slurry on tillage farms are enormous, from a number of perspectives.
“Firstly, it will allow slurries to be transported from high production areas, such as piggeries, to tillage farms and for the slurry to be used at optimal periods of growth on tillage land. Up to now, slurry is often being spread at times of the year when most of the nitrogen is lost into the atmosphere. If the slurry is on-site it can be used and incorporated into the soil with up to 60% of the nitrogen being available to the plants. All of the phosphates and potash (p&ks) that a plant requires will also be delivered. This would mean a dramatic reduction in the amount of inorganic or artificial fertilisers required by the farmer.
“This will lead to a huge cost saving but, more importantly, it will lead to a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as 60% of these emissions from arable farming comes from artificial fertiliser usage. All of these artificial fertilisers are imported. I have been promoting this initiative for a number of years now and I am delighted that Minister Coveney and his officials have recognised the importance of it by agreeing to allocate funding from the RDP towards this measure.
“The second agreed measure in the RDP will incentivise the growing of protein crops. Most of the protein that we get at present consists of soya beans from America; meaning that when we had a shortage of soya bean and protein, it put our whole beef and dairy industry at jeopardy. We need to build up our own stock of protein crops, which act as a buffer against the volatility of the markets. As we saw from the fodder crisis last year, our huge export industry can become vulnerable if any one of the major inputs becomes scarce.
“Last year while the main problem was fodder, there was also a lingering scarcity of soya beans, both in terms of availability and price. When I visited the Secretary General of Agriculture for the European Union in Brussels, he was most concerned by my submissions regarding protein. I am delighted that Minister Coveney has seen fit to incentivise protein crops which will not only safeguard our dairy and beef industries, it will also bring a very valuable break crop for rotational purposes which is essential for good farming practice.”