Creed and opposition TDs in stand-off over ‘fodder shortage’

The government is walking into another fodder crisis by “failing to take action” on the issue, Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue, has claimed.

The TD for Donegal is calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to immediately establish a fund for affected farmers.

Although Minister Creed has acknowledged that there are “some issues” with regard to adequate fodder; he remains confident that “sufficient supplies” of silage and hay are available across the country.

Yesterday, Deputy McConalogue, along with seven Fianna Fail colleagues, tabled a special topical debate in the Dail to emphasise “the urgency” of the issue.

“As a result of another wet summer this year, many farmers have been left facing a chronic fodder shortage.  The wet weather has left many fields waterlogged and farmers have been unable to harvest a second cut of silage,” said McConalogue.

“Animals have had to be housed earlier than usual; using up fodder that would traditionally have been used for the winter months.

“The situation that farmers are dealing with now, is almost the exact same as was experienced in 2012 – when the then government was forced into action.

The minister’s refusal to acknowledge the reality on the ground is a clear indictment of just how out of touch this government is with small farmers and rural Ireland.

McConalogue stressed that the situation is particularly bad in the north-west and west of the country. However, he claims the fodder shortages have now also spread to the border counties, midlands and mid-west.

“Farmers in other parts of the country recognise the pressure their counterparts are under and are helping out by providing fodder banks. While this is appreciated; it is the job of government to provide a scheme to assist these farmers.

“Minister Creed cannot continue to ignore this problem. I am calling on him to have his department, assisted by Teagasc, carry out a survey to establish what farmers are worst affected and in need of immediate assistance; and to establish an aid fund to help them through the winter months,” he said.

Isolated problem

In response to the debate, Minister Creed said he recognises there are undoubtedly some problems in certain areas.

“I have been very conscious throughout these last few months of the difficult weather conditions and their effect on the agriculture sector.

I acknowledge the difficulties faced by any farmer who has been farming on heavy ground; in a year in which there has been exceptionally high rainfall.

“I am not going to get into the difference of opinion about whether there is sufficient fodder in the country, but the Teagasc assessment on the pasture sward is that 2017 was in fact a record year for grass growth and that there is sufficient fodder in the country.

“We have surplus in certain areas and a deficit in other areas. It is not the case that my department has not been proactive on this issue.

“A number of weeks ago – long before any of the deputies stood to raise the issue – I asked Teagasc to go out into the farmyards in the regions where they are; and find out what the situation is on the ground,” he said.

Last month, the European Commission agreed to the minister’s request for an advance payment of the 2017 basic payment scheme in response to poor weather conditions.

This advance translates into an increase from 50% to 70% in the rate for the basic payment scheme to farmers whose applications were confirmed as fully clear.

Emergency helpline

Minister Creed has emphasised that his department operates an emergency helpline for animal welfare cases.

“I urge any farmers facing an emergency animal welfare situation, and who may be in need of support, to contact the helpline for advice and – if needs be – emergency assistance,” he concluded.