Fianna Fail’s fodder crisis motion to be put to a vote

This evening Fianna Fail brought forward a motion in the Dail calling on the Government to take “immediate action” to remedy the current fodder crisis.

During this evening’s sitting of the Dail, Fianna Fail’s motion received plenty of cross-party support from Sinn Fein, Labour, the Green Party and various independent TDs.

Following the debate, it was decided that the motion – along with certain amendments – would be put to a vote on Thursday, April 18.

The extent of the fodder crisis facing farmers across the country was highlighted by opposition TDs from right across the country, who claimed that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and his department were “asleep at the wheel” and were unprepared for the current fodder crisis.

Commenting on the motion earlier this week, Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue, said: “What was a fodder shortage has become a fodder crisis.

Since last September, Fianna Fail has consistently called on the Government to tackle the escalating fodder shortages throughout the country.

“However, as a result of the minister’s failure to acknowledge the emerging issues and engage with farmers, the situation has now become a national emergency – which is putting a huge strain on farmers’ mental health and is creating animal welfare issues.

“This crisis is yet another example of just how out of touch Fine Gael is with rural Ireland,” he said.

The motion brought forward by Fianna Fail calls on the Government to:
  • Immediately bring forward a hardship fund to help small and medium-sized farmers who have been severely impacted by the fodder crisis;
  • Introduce a meal voucher scheme for farmers affected;
  • Swiftly make available low-cost credit for farmers to help pay for the costs of sourcing fodder and concentrates, while immediately finalising and opening the low-cost loan scheme announced over six months ago in Budget 2018;
  • Ensure all balancing payments for outstanding 2017 RDP scheme payments – such as the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme and the Sheep Welfare Scheme – are paid immediately, as farmers’ cash-flow problems mount;
  • Dedicate a budget to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Early Warning System, which supports farmers at a local level, before any welfare problems occur;
  • Establish a special standing committee composed of relevant stakeholders to monitor and report to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine quarterly, to keep fodder supplies under review with fail-safe measures to ensure that such a crisis does not emerge again;
  • Temporarily halt all Cross Compliance inspections on farms, as well as Bord Bia farm audits;
  • Include a permanent scheme in the RDP to compensate farmers for losses caused by adverse weather;
  • Show flexibility regarding the upcoming 2018 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) deadline.

‘We have acted in appropriate and measured ways’

In response to the motion brought forward by Fianna Fail, Minister Creed said: “I don’t accept the premise of the motion that serves a particular political narrative that I have been slow to react.

“I don’t accept that last September or October that this was a crisis we could envisage for April of this year.

I want to make the point that we have acted in the department at all times in appropriate and measured ways.

“As this story evolved, we had the permission to bring forward payments in the back end of last year at the maximum level.

“We had fodder budgeting advice from Teagasc – which always had meals as a part of it. That was the advice; to stretch the fodder you had through the use of meals.

“We had the transport initiative at the end of January and we had an extension of that and a modification of the terminology to support the import of fodder at a later stage.

“Through all of that we were in constant contact with those co-operatives, Teagasc and farm organisations. So I think – to be fair – we have acted appropriately in what has been a dynamic and evolving situation,” the minister said.

More coverage to follow.