ICSA Tillage chair Gavin Carberry has called on the Department of Agriculture to remove the requirement for an equal lie-back area when sowing catch crops for grazing. “This requirement – which has been brought in at the last minute – has not only torpedoed the huge potential for tillage and drystock farmers to work together, but it has also thrown many ACRES plans into chaos,” he said.
“Tillage farmers have been very much encouraged to grow forage crops to capture benefits such as nutrient sharing between tillage and livestock farmers. Likewise for cattle and sheep farmers the availability of forage crops on tillage land has been of enormous value, particularly when traditional fodder is in short supply. It makes no sense to impose a lie-back requirement that effectively will put an end to this type of collaboration.”
The lie-back requirement has been brought in through GAEC 6 which covers Minimum Soil Cover to Avoid Bare Soil in Periods that are Most Sensitive. Mr Carberry said, however, “Imposing a lie-back area that must be at least equal in area to the adjacent non-grass forage area is an over-the-top interpretation of GAEC 6. It is totally unfeasible to expect tillage farmers to sow an area of grass that is equal to the area assigned for forage crops. It makes no sense, and it is the reason why many tillage farmers, me included, will not be sowing catch crops this year. Up until this point there has been no lie-back requirement and the system has worked perfectly well with good management and strip grazing to prevent excessive poaching.”
He said the situation is even more dire for those who have selected sowing catch crops as part of their ACRES plan. “ACRES plans were submitted and accepted back in May, yet we now have a situation whereby farmers are getting hit with this lie-back amendment which means their ACRES plans are no longer compliant. Many have already sown catch crops with no other available land beside it to grow grass. What is a farmer in this position supposed to do?”
Mr Carberry said Minister McConalogue must address the situation urgently. “Catch crops are going in the ground and more will be sown over the next few weeks. The addition of this requirement clearly has not been thought through. It has removed any incentive for tillage farmers to grow catch crops, it is playing havoc with ACRES plans, and will no doubt severely impact the store lamb trade. The only practical thing to do at this stage is remove this requirement.”