A Co. Down cereal grower does not believe that a measure such as a Tillage Incentive Scheme (TIS) should be used as a means of encouraging the expansion of Ireland’s tillage/arable area.
“I believe that market forces should always be allowed to play out in this regard,” Allan Chambers told Agriland.
“I also question the principle of encouraging livestock farmers to consider ploughing up significant acreages of grass.
“For one thing, they may not have the expertise nor the equipment available to grow a cereal or other arable crop successfully.”
Allan farms 270ac of crops near Seaforde in the very heart of Co. Down.
“I do support, however, measures to increase the protein acreage grown throughout Ireland.
“But the support levels must reflect the fast increasing price of imported protein sources, such as soya."
The last 50 years have seen Northern Ireland’s arable acreage drop by approximately 60%.
“The industry must be adequately supported into the future,” Allan commented.
“And in this context two things must happen. First off, the new safety net payment that is being talked about for Northern Ireland must mirror the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] payments that will be on offer across the rest of the island.
“The other necessity is that of ensuring that all future support payments are inflation linked. And this must be set in the specific context of the inflation that is taking place within agriculture.”
Allan also believes that Northern Ireland’s arable sector musty be fully recognised for the natural diversity that it brings to the countryside.
“We also need to see growers securing access to environmental payments that make economic sense," he said.
But the basic question remains i.e. is it possible to reverse the trend that has seen the area of crops grown in Northern Ireland decrease so significantly mover recent years?
Allan Chambers believes that every arable farmer in Northern Ireland has the capacity to expand their cropping area by at least 20%.
“But it’s all about getting the extra land they need to make this happen,” he stressed.
“One way of making this happen is to make real and significant changes, where land tenure and generational renewal in Northern Ireland are concerned.
“The tax incentives linked to long-term leasing in the Republic of Ireland is working well to this end. I see no reason why this cannot be replicated in Northern Ireland.”