Contractors demand planning for Straw Chopping Scheme be suspended

A planned new Straw Chopping Scheme announced in the budget will hit agricultural contractor incomes by an estimated €4.5 million.

he Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue to take account of what it describes huge concerns of Farm Contractors that proposed scheme will have a significant negative impact on their incomes.

FCI told the Minister in a letter this week that these Farm Contractors have made continuous large private financial investments in the purchase of high output and efficient baling and straw handling machinery over more than a decade, in order to facilitate the management of straw as a varied resource for thousands of their client farmers.

FCI told the Minister that he was effectively taking the income from Farm Contractor’s pockets and giving it to their tillage client farmers in what it said was a move that can only be construed as a crude attempt at being divisive between Farm Contractors and tillage farmers.

“This proposed Straw Chopping Scheme will, effectively remove at least one million bales from the current system, meaning an annual drop in income of more than €4.5 million directly related to straw baling activities, for those Farm Contractors who have provided a baling service to their client farmers over many years,” said FCI national chairman, John Hughes.

FCI said the planned Scheme would effectively reducing the incomes of more than 100 Baling Farm Contractors without consultation, negotiation or compensation

“The Association believes that proposal to grant aid the chopping of 150,000 tonnes or 40,000 hectares of straw, which is the equivalent of 450,000 large square bales or 1 million 4×4 round bales straw bales rather than bale them, will amount to an annual income loss across Baling Farm Contractors of the region of €4.5 million in 2021 alone, based on a modest Contractor Charge of €4.5 per 4×4 round bale or €10 per large square bale.”

FCI is calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, to immediately suspend this proposed Straw Chopping Scheme pending a proper discussion opportunity for stakeholders including Farm Contractors.

It also wants the Government to carry out an in-depth and balanced examination of the value of straw and farmyard manures in the nutrient value chain as well as their animal welfare and environmental management benefits for Irish livestock and tillage farming.

In the event of the proposed Straw Chopping Scheme being rolled out, FCI want an agreed compensation package for Farm Contractors for the redundancy of their expensive machines and the significant loss of income.

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