Creed on fodder: ‘There can be productive, mutually-beneficial partnerships’

Earlier this week, AgriLand spoke to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed – a year on from the publication of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture’s report ‘The Future of the Tillage Sector in Ireland’.

In the second installment we talk fodder and Irish grain. One of the recommendations in the report was the implementation of a traceability logo for Irish grain.

In recent times, Irish dairy production has come under the spotlight for its grass-fed image. AgriLand asked the minister does he think there is potential for Irish animals to be fed with Irish grass and Irish grain.

One reality out there is that, at present, we cannot produce enough grain and protein in this country to feed our animals and a large proportion has to be imported.

The minister stated: “80% of our cereal production at the moment goes on animal feed. We are supportive of Irish grain, but we need to be extremely careful as well.

“If we talk about driving the Irish market for Irish produce, given the fact that we export 90% of what we produce, if everybody else reciprocated with the same type of initiative, we’d be left with an awful lot of product that we’d have nowhere to go with.

“This issue of re-nationalising markets across Europe is something that we are very vigilant on. I think it would be somewhat hypocritical of us if we were proactive on the home market and yet, very vigilant on international markets; we have to be very careful of that issue.”

Also Read: Minister: Not putting a dampener on beet, but the price is low

Fodder production incentive could continue in some form

While not all of the budget was used in the Fodder Production Incentive Scheme, it did contribute to a reduction in the fodder deficit in many areas and uptake was strong in regions hit worst by the drought, like Co. Wexford.

The incentive has also helped to build working relationships between livestock and tillage farmers.

“I think tentative first steps in terms of building relationships between the livestock sector – perhaps particularly the dairy sector – and the tillage sector are really important.

Given the year we’ve been through, I think there might be a realisation that dairy farmers in particular can’t do it all themselves and there can be productive, mutually beneficial partnerships – particularly with the tillage sector.

“I recognise that the tillage sector has felt a little bit hunted in some respects by the dairy side, in terms of available land and renting land for the tillage sector.

“But I think, given the year we’ve been through and in particular the tentative steps that have been taken under the fodder production incentive measure, this might lead to something more long-term emerging in terms of something mutually beneficial to both sectors.

We provided €2.75 million. It was a demand-led scheme, so the question of an under-spend doesn’t arise.

The fodder deficit has reduced in some cases, but is still very real for many others.

“Through the collaborative endeavour of all the stakeholders, we’ve closed down the gap significantly; that doesn’t mask individual difficulties.

As we’re into the winter housing season now for cattle, I think that budgeting is a major issue now in terms of fodder budgeting by farmers.

“Obviously, the department here will remain ever vigilant on the issue until we get cattle out again in the spring time.”