The organizers of Electric Picnic have held several meetings with local tillage farmers in Co. Laois to address their concerns around next year’s harvest.
It follows a recent announcement that the three-day music and arts festival will be held from August 16-18 next year, two weeks earlier than its usual September slot.
For the past 19 years, the event, which attracted 70,000 people last weekend, has been held on a site in Stradbally in early September.
The earlier date next year is to facilitate a specific artist, festival organizers said.
The capacity is also due to be increased on site next year to 75,000 people.
The move to bring the festival forward came as a shock to local tillage farmers who say they were not consulted in advance of the announcement being made.
They said the new dates would clash with “prime harvest time”.
In recent days, Electric Picnic festival director, Melvin Benn has held several meetings with local farmers, including Paul Cushen, who will be most impacted by the new dates.
“I’d say said he genuinely didn’t realize what they had done, they didn’t think about the harvest. It just never came across their minds.
“He put his hands up and said he had made a mistake, but on the other hand then he said he couldn’t change the dates and we said that’s the only way around it.
“We left that first meeting at loggerheads,” Cushen told Agriland.
The farmers then considered lodging a planning objection with Laois County Council, however they decided against this as it risked the festival being cancelled.
“We didn’t want to cancel the picnic, that’s not we were about. All we wanted was just to be able to cut our crops without any traffic disruption. We were left with no option,” Cushen said.
During a follow-up meeting, Melvin Benn gave the farmers a commitment that the earlier dates in 2024 were for “one year only”.
The festival director also agreed to cover the cost of any garda escorts that may be needed to combine harvesters to travel on the roads.
Cushen said that the organizers will consider using other roads and tracks to alleviate traffic issues, but he is unsure if this would work as “there are only so many roads”.
Some of the farmers are also considering changing their crop planting just for 2024.
“I’ll be thinking of growing more winter barley so that I won’t have barley to harvest then or if I’m going to have crops, I’m going to have them in a field that may be near a shed so we won’t need to be going out on the road. That’s all we can do really.
“You could do it for one year, you couldn’t do it going forward, it would just be too much of a mess every year,” Cushen said.
“The bottom line is none of us wanted it to be canceled and if we stayed pushing that’s what was going to probably happen and we didn’t want that.
“It’s not ideal but it will have to do for this year,” the farmer said.
Bobby Miller, who also farms in Stradbally, said he is “more than happy” to have Electric Picnic in the area, but was disappointed that farmers were not consulted in advance about the new dates.
“We await with interest the details of what measures will be put in place for farmers,” he told Agriland.