Creed’s response to calls for emergency tillage fund makes no sense

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed’s initial response to this week’s Dail debate on the tillage crisis facing farmers in the west of Ireland was shockingly weak.

In essence, he called for a survey to be undertaken which would be used to quantify the losses which the affected farmers have incurred.

But, hang on a minute, he instructed Teagasc to carry out this very same work last autumn, in the wake of the initial Tillage Forum meeting. So why were these inspections not undertaken at that stage?

It is not feasible to ask Teagasc representatives to visit farms in the month of January in order to assess the scale of the crop losses last September.

In the first instance, a number of the affected fields may well have been planted out in winter cereals. And, let’s be honest, all farm land pretty dismal at this time of the year.

In truth, the Minister’s response smacked of a man who was playing for time.

The inevitable reality is that the farmers affected by last September’s atrocious weather deserve to be compensated for the more than significant losses they incurred. And the sooner Michael Creed agrees with this point of view, the better for everyone involved.

I have no doubt that a combination of the receipts kept by the 500 or so farmers affected and a review of their cropping track record should allow Teagasc staff to work out a realistic loss figure for each producer.

Both IFA and Fianna Fail have estimated that the total loss figure will come in at around €5m. In the grand scale of things, this is a relatively small sum of money for the government to deal with.

And, of course, the issue of the tillage crisis fund can be sorted without Michael Creed having to seek Brussels’ approval.

What happened last September was a one in 50-year phenomenon. No one is denying this.

On that basis alone, Michael Creed should have the sense – and good grace – to make the required gesture towards a small group of tillage farmers who play such a crucial role at the very heart of Irish agriculture.