Irish tillage farmers are to avail of a crop diversification derogation in 2023 from the European Commission, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.

The move will see cereal growers given maximum flexibility when it comes to their planting decisions in the coming weeks and months.

The relaxed rules, which usually see some tillage farmers having to follow the two-crop and three-crop planting approach, are part of the EU response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It is aimed at addressing the heightened food security concerns related to global food availability and affordability,” the Department of Agriculture has said.

Minister McConalogue said the derogation complements the “measures already taken by the Government in 2022 to encourage Irish farmers to grow more tillage crops, which in turn will help towards producing more food”.

Current rules

Within the current CAP, crop diversification requirements place obligations on tillage farmers regarding the number of crops they must grow.

The rules mean farmers with more than 10ha of arable land, but less than 30ha, must grow at least two crops and farmers with more than 30ha must grow at least three crops.

The main crop grown must not exceed 75% of the arable area and for those required to grow more than two crops, the two main crops must not exceed 95%. Mixed farmers, who grow crops but who have more than 75% of their land in grassland, are exempt.

Other exemptions

Other exemptions to the rules include holdings with greater than 75% arable land used for grasses or other herbaceous forage, lands lying fallow, cultivation of leguminous crops or a combination of these.

Holdings where greater than 75% of the eligible agricultural area is in permanent grassland, used for the production of grasses or for the production of other herbaceous forage are also exempt, along with any certified organic land, including land in conversion.

Regardless of the current rules and exemptions, the 2023 derogation exempts farmers from all crop diversification requirements and affords them maximum planting flexibility now, for crops harvested in 2023.

Hybrid approach for 2024

Separately, Minister McConalogue has also confirmed that, for 2024 crops, a hybrid of the crop diversification and crop rotation rules, suitable to the Irish situation, has been agreed with the European Commission.

He said that further information in relation to the crop diversification and crop rotation requirements from 2024 will be announced in the coming weeks, when discussions with the European Commission have concluded.

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