The Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI), the national association representing farm and forestry contractors in Ireland, has requested that the Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD., give urgent and immediate attention to the need for consultation with the Ministers for Communications, Climate Change and the Environment, and Minister for Housing, Planning & Local Government, in order to have a planned and orderly extension of the farm animal slurry land-spreading dates beyond the current October 15 deadline for 2018 as well as the mineral fertilizer spreading dates beyond the current September 15 deadline. FCI is requesting a one-month extension in each case.
FCI is requesting Minister Creed to put in place a temporary one month extension of the animal slurry land spreading date, to give a closing date of November 15, 2018 and a temporary one month extension to the mineral fertilizer spreading date to October 15, 2018. This will provide Farm Contractors with an opportunity, weather and ground conditions permitting, to complete land-spreading activities that for reasons outside of their control, have been curtailed during the last two months due to the exceptional dry weather conditions that Irish farmers and FCI members have experienced.
After a month where virtually no animal slurry or mineral fertilizer was spread on Irish farms by Farm Contractors and farmers, due to reasons of significant grass burn-off risk, caused by exceptional drought conditions, many Farm Contractors are concerned about their ability to meet these current calendar deadline dates, in safety and on behalf of their farmer customers, as laid down in the current regulations.
As a result, Farm Contractors in Ireland are facing into a very busy month of October. FCI National Chairman, Richard White, said, “We are is predicting that the grass silage harvesting will extend at least towards the end of October, even if weather conditions bring much-needed rainfall in the coming week.” He added, “This will be coming at a time when the much larger national maize harvest will also be coming early. It will also coincide with current animal slurry spreading deadline date, all of which will be difficult to achieve in practice and in safety.
FCI has also requested Minister Creed to extend the mineral fertilizer spreading deadline date of September 15 as many FCI members have also not spread fertilizer on farms in recent weeks, due to lack of growing conditions. “In order to cope with the current grazing challenges and the expected return to growth in late August, we believe that ground and soil conditions will allow for the optimum uptake of mineral fertilizers later this year, where grazing and late silage will be urgently required,” said FCI National Chairman Richard White.
“We understand that the Irish maize silage area has grown by close to 70% this year, due to the late spring cereal growing conditions. Combining this with the short window for hedge-cutting work and the need to sow grass seeds, which was aborted due to lack of rain in May and June, plus the demands of winter cereal sowing, and muck spreading deadline dates, will all mean a very busy month of October for Farm Contractors,” according to Richard White.
FCI believes that this will put a huge additional work load on Farm Contractors, coinciding with the slurry spreading deadline dates and the requirement to harvest grass silage crops to replace the depleted first cuts on many dairy farms in particular. This is a huge national workload on contractor services at a time when seasonal and student workers will no longer be available. FCI believes that given current unprecedented soil moisture deficit levels, ground conditions into early November will be suitable for the spreading of animal slurry, with no environmental risks associated.
Richard White said, “Postponing the decision to extend the slurry and fertilizer spreading deadline dates to the last minute will only increase the health and safety risks on farms in a year when we have already reported a very high national level of farm accidents and fatalities. Creating a last minute panic and an expectation that the slurry must be spread before the October 15 deadline, against the backdrop of more than 10 weeks of exceptionally dry weather conditions, can be considered to be tantamount to creating an additional and unnecessary health and safety risk on many farms.”
FCI is urging Minster Creed to put in place these very necessary land-spreading date extension concessions for this year, in order to alleviate further significant hardship for farmers. FCI believes that planned extension dates will allow our Farm Contractor members to complete their land-spreading operations, in safety and with due efficacy, on behalf of farming customers.