Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber and thank him for taking this Commencement matter. Agriculture has been in the news for the past number of days, or even weeks at this stage. I welcome the climate change COP26 meeting that is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. I know the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Martin Heydon, is there today.
There has also been talk in recent weeks about the ongoing CAP negotiations. In fairness, I acknowledge that the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, was in Tipperary last week and spent four hours talking to farmers at Thurles mart. They do not agree with everything he says, but they cannot say he does not give them time. He has been doing that throughout the country and I acknowledge that engagement. The CAP negotiations are hugely important. For a county like mine, Tipperary, it is about how we can support productive farmers. I have said to the Minister that one thing we can do on that is to have more variety in the eco-schemes for productive farmers. In respect of tillage, for example, the only eco-scheme it is possible to go into is one on fertiliser spreaders.
The matter I raise today concerns costs for farmers, which are rising in a range of areas, including wood, steel, oil and diesel. The cost of diesel has gone up dramatically. Everyone speaks about it in terms of their daily lives but, for farmers, there is no alternative to diesel. We do not have an electric combine harvester as an alternative. While we acknowledge carbon budgets and the need to shift our usage in areas of life, in farming there are certain areas where that is just not possible.
One of the biggest costs coming down the line for farmers, and in fairness Pat O'Toole in the Irish Farmers' Journal did a whole article on this last week, is that of fertiliser. In the space of 12 months, the cost of fertiliser has gone up threefold.We are tillage farmers at home. Buying calcium ammonium nitrate fertiliser in January cost €220 per tonne. We got a price this week of €650, and the expectation is that the price will go up before we need it in December and January. This is a massive issue for tillage and dairy farmers. The price of urea is €850 per tonne. These prices are not viable and will have a major impact on farmers. I know people who say that they will be forced into suckler farming because they cannot afford the price of fertiliser.
I ask that we as a Government recognise that farmers cannot put this cost on anyone else. They have to take the hit. They will be given a price for their material, be it grain, milk or whatever, so they cannot put the cost on anyone else. If any other business had its costs increase by threefold in less than a year, it would not be sustainable. I ask that the Government, in particular the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, introduce a scheme to support the farming sector during this time. It will be a tough six months. Something like this has been done before. The Minister of State will remember the Beef Plan Movement in 2019 when the price of beef was very low. There were protests and long negotiations between the Government and all farming bodies before there was an agreement that the Government would support farmers through bonus payments if they worked with meat factories. As such, what I am asking for is not something that has not been done before. We need to support farmers during the coming months. I call on the Minister of State and his colleagues to do so.