The Government has announced an incentive for tillage farmers to produce additional feed this autumn through a financial commitment of up to €2.75m.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed launched the scheme after securing the agreement of Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe.

Minister Creed said: "I am acutely aware of the need to prepare for the winter ahead. I have been actively engaged with the Fodder Group and through their work, maximising production of home grown fodder is a collective priority this autumn.

"Through this incentive, I am encouraging tillage growers to actively engage in the fodder market".

Under the scheme, an incentive of €155 per hectare will be paid to tillage growers who grow a temporary crop of short rotation grasses for fodder production over the winter months.

€100 per hectare will be provided for those growing catch crops such as fodder rape and turnips.

Currently more than 23,000 hectares of catch crops are supported under the agri-environment scheme, GLAS.

Mr Creed said the additional funding commitment aims to incentivise a doubling of this area.

"This year has been a challenging year for both livestock and tillage farmers.

"This measure will support tillage farmers to supply into what is a strong market for fodder', he added.

The Irish Farmers’ Association has welcomed the announcement.

President Joe Healy said: "Growing fodder crops on tillage ground has the potential to play a part in closing the national fodder deficit arising from drought."

IFA Grain Chairman Mark Browne said the initiative it must be kept simple.

"We cannot afford to have any uncertainty or unnecessary bureaucracy around this scheme.

"These crops need to be sown urgently to take advantage of the recent rain" he added.

In his statement, Minister Creed said the measure will not apply where land is being taken out of tillage production but encourages temporary production only of fodder by tillage growers.

Farmers growing between three and 50 hectares of additional temporary forage crops, (additional to that already grown under GLAS, will be eligible.