Carthy backs struggling farmers diversifying into hemp growth
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has supported the concept of hemp cultivation as a viable extra income source for farmers that is also environmentally beneficial. Carthy said the he believed an exploration of the development of this industry should be considered and should include the reduction of red tape and through training for interested farmers.
Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:
“At a time when sectors such as sheep and cattle have faced years of unsustainably low incomes, we must explore all options to assist farmers to remain on their farms. Challenges including the EU Commissions proposals to cut the CAP budget and the impact of Brexit show that there is a need to be imaginative.
“Hemp cultivation can help farmers supplement their income and comes at a much lower environmental cost than the intensification of their current practises.
“Because some farmers may be hesitant to make such a move given hemps association with the controlled substance cannabis it is imperative that the Irish government and European Commission provides supports by reducing the red tape involved in such a move and by providing training. Uses for hemp include building material for houses, paper, clothes, heating oil and as a plastic alternative.
“What could potentially make this a good option for Irish farmers is that it thrives on wet, boggy and generally less fertile ground. It can be used as a rotational crop in dairy farming systems and its high density actually supresses weed growth thereby reducing the need for chemical weed killers. As early as 2001, Teagasc identified the potential for hemp cultivation when it grew five field variations for the MDF fibre industry.
“Obviously farmers will have questions as to the profitability of cultivation and therefore the development of the sector in other states, including England, will need to become part of the exploration process.
“A Hemp company from Hull cites the following figures “by performing the first step in processing the crop, separating the fibre from the inner core or hurds, net margins would be raised from a typical £262/ha to £872/ha based on a modest 5t/ha yield, If growers took the processing a stage further, by manufacturing insulation materials, that could be raised to £3500/ha.”
“The Irish government has responded to this potential by allowing farmers to request licences for hemp cultivation but they have made the process so bureaucratic that it has become dissuasive.
“For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) requests the original hemp seed labels. As hemp is recognised as a forage crop, it would be much more pragmatic if the coordinates for the crop were registered on the BPS application. The HPRA also requests huge amounts of information, which makes the licencing needlessly slow.
“This process must be streamlined to operative in a similar way to the organics certification bodies. Such a body would control the seeds made available to Irish farmers and act as the source of information when dealing with the Department of Agriculture.
“As a first step, I call on the Department of Agriculture to ensure that all Teagasc Advisors have expertise in the area. The cost of making the transition to hemp cultivation can be supported under pillar II investments funding in the CAP.
“Sinn Féin believes that the role of the government is crucial, that the department should provide training for diversification and provide guidance and financial support where needed. If we are to maintain our network of Family Farms across Ireland then we need to be imaginative and supportive of all options”.