Rural Development

Department Must Show More Flexibility on Upcoming Acres Deadline and Catch Crop Requirements

IFA National Rural Development Committee Chair Michael Biggins has called on Minister McConalogue to extend the August 31st deadline in light of challenging sowing conditions encountered in many parts of the country and to revisit the issues surrounding the unworkable catch crop grazing requirements.

“There are a few ACRES measures (Grass margins – Arable; Protection/Maintenance of archaelogical monuments – Arable; Riparian buffer strip/zone – Arable) that require the establishment of protected margins and sowing of suitable seed mix by August 31st,” Michael Biggins said.

“We’ve had the wettest July on record and things haven’t been much better in recent weeks so soil conditions are heavy and unsuitable for sowing in many parts of the country. There are many who haven’t yet had the opportunity to get seed into the ground or protected fences erected,” he highlighted.

“Rather than doing unnecessary damage at this stage, just to meet the 31st deadline, the Minister needs to come out and give some flexibility. Push the deadline out for a few weeks to let the ground dry up and give impacted farmers some breathing space. Similar should be applied for the planting of catch crops too,” Michael Biggins said.

“There has been a lot of commentary on catch crops and the new unworkable Department requirements recently, but the September 15th sowing deadline is fast approaching, and undoubtedly there is a lot of the 22,000 hectares committed to catch crops among ACRES still to be planted,” he said.

“For those that have catch crops planted before there was any awareness of these new regulations, the Minister needs to confirm and give full assurance to farmers that they will not be in breach of GAEC 6 conditionality where these new catch-crop grazing requirements are not fully met. With AMS we have the technology available rather than rely on inspector interpretation and/or unnecessarily flood the appeals system in the back end,” he said.  

“The amendments made by the Department to their catch crops requirements are a positive first step, and of potential benefit to mixed farms with adequate adjoining area, but it offers little to address the concerns of specialist tillage farms, or farms which already have catch crops in the ground. A further review and immediate introduction of practical solutions is needed,” he added.

“Imposing that the lie-back can only be in grass will make the growing of catch crops uneconomic and unworkable for specialist tillage growers, not to mention having a massive impact on the store-lamb trade too,” Michael Biggins said.

“These sectors are experiencing huge financial and operational challenges at the minute. We don’t need any more, particularly self-inflicted, pressures on the sector. Farmers feel like they are being regulated out of existence at this stage,” he concluded.

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