Ag committee considers the halt of inspections amid fodder crisis

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed today appeared before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to brief the committee on the fodder crisis, with various suggestions made – including the halting of inspections.

The committee called the meeting during the parliamentary recess to address what is an issue of huge concern for farmers all over the country.

Speaking after the meeting, committee chair Pat Deering said: “The committee has been closely monitoring the ongoing fodder crisis and today’s meeting with the minister was a productive one.

We were pleased to hear that Minister Creed will be meeting with the main banks in order to ensure that farmers can access credit during this time – in which many have been financially stretched by trying to access feed for their livestock.

“The minister also confirmed that the €1.5 million limit on the fodder support scheme would be raised, should it be necessary to continue the support,” Deputy Deering said.

Inspections

“Members raised the issue of inspections and the added pressure that they bring at this time. It was suggested that a case be made for inspections to be waived until the fodder shortage has been resolved.

“Flexibility in relation to credit is also vital and meal vouchers were another subject raised as an option for farmers whose fields are still too waterlogged for grass to grow and who cannot put their animals out to grass yet.”

Deering added that the committee welcomes the assistance measures announced by Minister Creed, including the extension of the closing dates for various schemes and greater operational flexibility for road hauliers engaged in the transport of fodder.

Concern

However, the Oireachtas chair said the committee is concerned that Ireland is currently in the grip of its second fodder crisis in five years.

“Some members accused the minister and his department of a lack of preparedness in tackling the fodder shortage until it had developed into a full-blown crisis,” he said.

“The shortage was caused by inclement weather, something that obviously cannot be controlled – but will undoubtedly raise its head again in the future.

Farming practices must be informed in the future by appropriate climate considerations as the farming sector aims to meet its targets. Equally, however, the department must have contingency plans in place for such crises as this as we deal with longer, wetter winters and extreme weather events.

Deputy Deering noted that, after being in constant contact with Commissioner Hogan, Minister Creed announced welcome news of the commission’s decision to grant derogation on the three-crop diversification requirement for crop 2018.

“This will give farmers flexibility to establish the maximum amount of arable crops, weather permitting,” he said.

Long-term response

“The committee urged the minister to develop a comprehensive, long-term response in order to ensure that farmers are not placed in such a situation again and so that they can be assisted in emerging from the current shortage.

“The committee also plans to invite Teagasc, the co-ops and the banks to appear before us in the future to discuss the fodder crisis and support measures for farmers,” Deering concluded.