The potential for an unprecedented fodder crisis this coming winter is growing by the day, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), which has proposed a 10-point plan to combat fodder issues.

Commenting on the situation, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that the response by Government to date has simply not been adequate.

While weather between now and next April will be key, the president warned that farmers need to be preparing for the worst.

He added that the “wait and see” approach of the Department of Agriculture and the “tweaking of a few schemes” and paying direct payments earlier is not adequate.

If the weather between now and next April goes against us, we are facing an unprecedented crisis and concrete measures are needed now and immediately to minimise the impact.

Describing the need for written applications for GLAS derogations as a “complete underestimation of the current crisis”, McCormack said that farmers haven’t got the time to be dealing with such paperwork.

In response to current conditions, the farmers’ organisation has outlined how best to tackle the current issues.

In particular, the ICMSA is calling for the following 10 measures to be implemented to save as much fodder as possible:
  1. A feed/fodder support scheme is now required to import feed. With demand for fodder/feed at unprecedented highs across the EU, fodder/feed should be imported now and supported by Government;
  2. Processors of milk, beef and all other farm products must pay the maximum possible price for the produce and they cannot be allowed to take advantage of the current pressures on farmers, the organisation says. A strongly-funded campaign to boost live exports is also required over the coming months;
  3. With reports that feed orders are taking over a week for delivery, the driver regulations for delivery of feed should be temporarily amended in line with the regulation for milk collection to ensure that feed can be delivered on time to farmers;
  4. The availability of water is becoming a critical issue for some farmers and Irish Water – along with other relevant agencies – will have to make water available to farmers where required;
  5. The closing date for fertiliser spreading on September 15 should be extended even at this stage. This decision should be taken now so that farmers can make fertiliser decisions knowing that the closing date has been extended;
  6. The GLAS rules need to be amended, particularly in relation to species-rich grassland and traditional hay meadows to allow farmers spread additional fertiliser to grow grass and harvest this where required;
  7. Under the ANC scheme, farmers should be allowed lease out surplus land between now and the end of the year and maintain their entitlement to the ANC payment;
  8. The Brexit Loan Scheme for farmers should be introduced without any further delay, as cash-flow pressures build at farm level;
  9. The financial institutions need to play their part and allow loan restructuring without penalty where required;
  10. All farmers must be encouraged to seek help where required and all the relevant agencies must respond in a proactive way.

Concluding, McCormack said, that Irish farmers are in a very serious situation and the time for action is now.