7 urgent actions to counter ‘severe drought effects’

With little or no rain expected in the coming week and pressure mounting at farm level, a coordinated response from industry stakeholders is needed to ensure that farmers can get through what is already an extremely difficult period.

That’s the message from Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack.

He outlined seven specific factors that need to be addressed to soften the effects of the drought.

1. Concentrates

With some reports that feed orders are taking over a week for delivery, the ICMSA president said that regulations covering truck drivers’ hours (for the delivery of feed) should be temporarily amended (in line with those for drivers of milk tankers) to ensure that feed can be delivered on time.

He explained: “This is a hugely important issue. It was addressed in the spring period [during the fodder crisis] and should be repeated now.”

2. Water supplies

He added: “The availability of water is becoming a critical issue for some farmers.” McCormack says Irish Water will have to make water available to farmers where required.

group water scheme

In addition, he said, other relevant state agencies must facilitate farmers in securing water supplies where needed.

3. Closing dates

The ICMSA also contends that the closing date for fertiliser application (September 15) should be extended. While this is over two months away, it believes it’s a decision that should be taken now “so that farmers can plan accordingly”.

4. GLAS rules

McCormack also said that Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) rules need to be amended, particularly in relation to species-rich grassland and traditional hay meadows to allow additional fertiliser applications.

Depending on how weather patterns evolve, he believes that farmers could be facing an unprecedented fodder crisis this winter.

5. Brexit aid

McCormack believes the Brexit Loan Scheme should be rolled out to farmers “without any further delay”.

He explained: “Cash-flow pressures are building at farm level; they are annoyed that small-to-medium enterprise (SME) food companies have the option of a ‘Brexit loan’ while farmers are still waiting.

6. Departmental support

The ICMSA is also adamant that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine needs to establish a helpline for farmers affected by drought – to point them in the appropriate direction.

no rain drought heatwave

The helpline should “prioritise farmers that have been severely impacted by drought and ensure they are offered relevant support services”.

7. Mental health

The ICMSA is encouraging all farmers to seek help where needed; it says that all relevant agencies must “respond in a proactive way”.

McCormack concluded: “The current period is extremely worrying for farmers. Specific actions need to be taken immediately – to assist individual farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole.”