New straw scheme ‘complete madness’ – Fitzmaurice

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has described a new environmental scheme involving the chopping and incorporation of straw as “an apparent effort to starve livestock farmers out of the west of Ireland”.

“It is reported that €10 million has been allocated for the scheme, which would see farmers paid €250/ha to chop and incorporate straw back into the soil,” he said.

“If the scheme was fully subscribed, that would encompass 40,000ha. That is approximately 15% of the land under cereals, when you consider the figure in June 2020 was just shy of 264,000ha.

“This is complete madness on a number of levels. Where will livestock farmers source bedding for animals if almost one million bales disappear from the market this year?

“There is so much talk about animal welfare, and yet here is the Government apparently introducing a scheme to reduce the amount of available bedding – following a year when straw yields were particularly poor”.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said that farmers in the west of the country “consistently pay the highest prices for straw” and that this scheme would further drive prices up.

“When you look at figures from the Central Statistics Office, you can also see that the area under cereals last year dropped by almost 4,000ha compared to 2019.

“If similar trends continue, it could spell bad news for livestock farmers and those in the mushroom industry who also rely heavily on straw,” he added.

“And this is all before you consider the fact that Bord na Mona has ceased peat production, which was an alternative source of bedding for livestock farmers”.

The Independent TD said that he was fully supportive of the tillage industry but that funding needed to be delivered as part of a more suitable scheme and that a “serious rethink” was required.