Former IFA Grain Committee, Vice Chairman, Dan O’Sullivan has said that the committee is doing all they can, but he can't say the same for the top table in the IFA. The grain sector are not getting the response they need from the heads of IFA, despite their efforts.
“It's most definitely a crisis. It's a crisis for the tillage sector. We're doing all we can on the grain committee here at the IFA, but as for those at the top table of IFA? Well, we don't know if they understand,” explained Dan. Without the support of those at the top of the IFA, there's not much else they can do.
Mr. O’Sullivan says that tillage farmers aren't getting the same treatment or financial support as other sectors, but they ‘never do’. This year has been particularly bad for the tillage sector, as weather and prices combine to make a tough time for farmers.
Mr. O’Sullivan says that of course Minister Michael Creed and other TDs are written to by farmers, but it's impossible to say if they're being heard.
Further woe for farmers
That's Farming spoke to two farmers in Kinsale who are struggling with this year’s crops. Around the area, there's approximately 3,500 acres left to cut for local farmers.
Nick Dunican is someone whose farm has been severely affected by the tillage crisis. According to him, it couldn't be any worse. Nick and his neighbouring farmers have been hit badly by terrible weather conditions and even worse prices.
Nick is preparing to work on his 10 acres of beans, the only thing left to harvest on his farm. Already, he knows there could be a risk that they won't turn out the way he'd like, as the looming weather forecast brings more negativity.
‘Soul-destroying’ is the ultimate term used to describe Nick’s situation. Around Kinsale, Nick believes there's thousands of acres of uncut grain. His own is more or less done, but the journey to get his grain to that finishing point has been nothing but hardship.
It's more than disheartening to hear a proud farmer, who has put blood, sweat and tears into his work, call his own produce ‘embarrassing’. Nick says that his grain was nothing more than ‘porridge’ when he brought it to his usual buyer. The true state of the situation was confirmed when the buyer wholeheartedly thanked him for bringing over the produce, according to Nick. To be thanked for what was to him a terrible crop, really brings it home that things are in a bad way.
Nick says that he planned this particular crop two years in advance. Taking pride in the wheat, he sprayed it four times, put hours and hours of work into it, and then was left to look at the disappointing result through no fault of his own.
Nick is cutting at 25% to 35% moisture, the grain is dirty, difficult to physically harvest and full heads are falling to the ground.
“Cutting at this moisture, the quality is completely gone.”
As someone who doesn't own land, Nick feels that CAP payments etc don't work for him. His payments are cut by 30% because of his land situation.
“I haven't contacted the Department because they don't care. They're not on the ground, they don't see it. The money is out of circulation for the sector. It's just not there. Here in the south, up in Galway and over in Carlow, it's completely unsustainable for all of us.
“As a farmer’s son, I never got a hand-up; I've worked hard to become a farmer. When I think of the bills and time, and the amount of Teagasc meetings I've attended; and then I look at my crops. It really gets you down,” explained Nick.
It's not just the weather that's causing the suffering, it's the unsustainable prices that are also damaging the sector, according to Nick.
The sense of solidarity among farmers is a help, but the pressure shouldn't be on farmers to sustain each other without additional support. Nick explained that four of his friends have asked him for help. Making the unfair decision of which one to go to is upsetting, as it would be for anyone:
“How can I decide which one to help, when you know the other three will be stuck without any assistance?” asks Nick. That kind of social pressure adds to the desperate situation these farmers find themselves in. It shouldn't be the responsibility of farmers to keep their community afloat by themselves.
Kieran Crowley of Kinsale has experienced similar hardship. Last Friday, he had 300 acres left of wheat to cut. By Monday, it's down to only about 200 acres of cuttable land. Losing more than 80 acres to bad weather is a terrible loss for any farmers.
“Two weeks ago, 300 acres would have given us six days work. Now, it'll take nearly ten to get it done.”
Nearly a fortnight to finish his farming, in this weather, is an unenviable situation. Kieran hasn't gone to the Department of Agriculture. Like most farmers, he believes this crisis isn't going to be noticed by those who could really help.
“To be honest, our focus is to get these crops finished. We can't spend time asking the department to help when we know they won't. Financially, it's a dire situation,” he explained.
“We work hard. We work seven days a week, all year. And then you can't pay your bills at the end of the year.”
Regardless of what any officials might say, one thing is certain. The tillage sector is in crisis.