Fitzmaurice slams farm bodies for ‘being asleep at the wheel’ on fodder crisis

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has stated that the country’s farm organisations could have been more “tactical” in their actions in the run-up to the current fodder crisis.

Speaking ahead of today’s Joint Committee on Agriculture meeting – which will address the ongoing fodder shortage that is affecting farmers throughout the country – Fitzmaurice claimed that the country’s farm bodies could have done more to mitigate against the present shortage.

It is my view that the farm organisations should have gone and sourced loads in England to embarrass the minister and to show him there was a problem.

“It would have helped us as politicians to mount more pressure on the minister,” he said.

“It wouldn’t have robbed the farm bodies to finance the importation of four lorries of fodder. That’s what they should have been doing; while we were beating on Creed’s door as now the import subsidy has been announced,” he said.

Tactics

He acknowledged that the farm bodies carried out a lot of work on the ground to get fodder into struggling counties – particularly in the west.

“I acknowledge that a massive amount of work was done internally in the south-east and the south to get fodder to the west. But what I am talking about is tactics in forcing the hand of the minster, which would have helped us as politicians to drive the case further.

I understand they are lobby groups but tactics at times are very important when a minister doesn’t seem to be in touch with the reality on the ground.

“The farm lobby groups could have organised for a few trailer loads of fodder to be imported from the UK weeks ago,” he said, adding: “It is my view that they were asleep at the wheel on the tactical front”.

“The co-ops tactically had fodder coming off the boats when Creed finally acknowledged that there was a serious problem and he had to move,” he said.

‘In denial’

Fitzmaurice stressed his belief that Minister Creed was “in denial” on the issue for months.

He also raised concerns over the level of communication and engagement between the department, Teagasc, co-ops and various stakeholders on the issue in recent months.

“I told the minister six months ago that there were fodder shortages in Galway, Sligo, Roscommon and Donegal – counties that are not even in my constituency,” he said.

“I acknowledge that the minister did attempt to intervene with the establishment of the Fodder Transport Support Measure last January; but it was too cumbersome to generate meaningful results,” he concluded.