‘Narrow’ fodder import support measure criticised

The Fodder Import Support Measure introduced yesterday by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has been criticised and described as “narrow“.

It was announced that the measure will operate through the dairy co-operatives. The measure is set to cover forage imported by the co-ops from April 5 through to April 30 and will be subject to EU State Aid (de-minimis) rules.

Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue, has called on the minister to extend the eligibility of the measure to all co-ops and private feed merchants.

It is understood that a full list of participating co-ops will be made available on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s website today or from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS). Terms and conditions of the measure are also set to be published today.

Support under the measure will reduce the cost to farmers of imported fodder by approximately one third, according to the department.

Commenting on yesterday’s announcement, Deputy McConalogue said: “The scheme is inexplicably confined to the dairy co-ops and excludes mart co-ops, as well as private feed merchants.

“This means that many parts of the country which do not have a strong dairy co-op network will struggle to avail of fodder through the scheme.

In particular, the minister’s decision to confine the subsidy to dairy co-ops would disadvantage those in the suckler and sheep farming sectors that are also under massive pressure to source scarce fodder to manage livestock through the next few weeks.

In spring 2013, the Fianna Fail TD said that all co-ops were eligible to avail of the subsidy scheme introduced to import fodder.

He added that it makes no sense that Minister Creed would now exclude mart co-ops and private feed merchants that are “well placed to serve the needs of their local farming community”.

Concluding, Deputy McConalogue said: “Minister Creed’s very narrow scheme reflects a minister who is trying to play catch-up on a crisis that he has failed to prepare for and smacks of a minister making it up as he goes along.

“It is crucial that Minister Creed immediately extends eligibility for the Fodder Import Support Measure to ensure fodder supply can be sourced for farmers in all sectors and throughout the country.”