‘Fodder budget costs must be covered by the department’

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been called upon to cover the cost of carrying out fodder budgets for farmers who successfully apply to the recently-announced Fodder Transport Support Measure.

Irish MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan outlined that the department must cover the cost of the approved advisor completing the forage budget, as it is of “little support to the farmer if he receives €240 as a transport subsidy for 20 bales of silage and then has pay an advisor out of it”.

The Fodder Transport Support Measure was announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, last week. The rates for the fodder subsidy will be €12 for a standard bale of silage/haylage and €8 for a standard bale of hay/straw.

Also Read: Long-awaited fodder scheme launched by Minister Creed

While he welcomed the scheme, Flanagan believes that – in its current form – it stands limited in scope and falls short of what is required.

Commenting on the scheme, the Irish MEP said: “The lack of a meal voucher scheme to complement the transport subsidy scheme is a major failing and this aspect must be revisited again.

Teagasc advice over the years in situations where fodder is scarce, and there is a need to stretch supplies, is to feed concentrates with available forage. As long as the animal has enough fibre in their diet, feeding concentrates is better value for money than maintaining animals on bought-in hay or silage alone.

“In addition, a meal voucher scheme is necessary to ensure that farmers not yet under pressure can extend their existing silage supplies to avert a crisis situation in six weeks’ time,” he added.

Flanagan went on to explain the compulsory involvement of the co-ops was a further unnecessary complication in his eyes.

“While they will have a role to play, and have always supported the farmer, there is little rationale in this aspect of the scheme.

“If a farmer had a verified shortage of fodder there is no benefit to him or her being obliged to source supplies through the co-op. This only adds to the administration of the scheme and will increase the delay in payments being released.

“Equally unnecessary is the 100km distance limit; again, if the farmer has a verified shortage of fodder, does it matter where it comes from? Setting arbitrary limits of this nature only serves to distort the market,” he concluded.

Fodder Action Group meeting

Meanwhile, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has called on Minister Creed to reconvene the Fodder Action Group for the third time since it was established late last year.

The INHFA is of the opinion that a meeting is needed to sort out the “many inconsistencies” revealed in the Fodder Transport Support Measure.

A number of core principles have been breached regarding the workings of the scheme, INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said.

He claimed that the minister has ignored the unanimous recommendation by the Fodder Action Group that a meal voucher scheme be put in place.

O’Donnell is also of the opinion that the department and the co-ops have “jointly engaged in price fixing, setting a massively inflated price that farmers must pay for bales in order to benefit from the haulage subsidy”.

The involvement of the co-ops has led to farmers being forced to turn their backs on local hauliers who traditionally would source and supply fodder to them, he added. The 100km limit also came in for some criticism – as it ruled out sourcing fodder within the region.

O’Donnell also stated that many farmers in designated areas have been discriminated against, as small square bales are ineligible under the scheme. He explained that farmers in these areas who are out wintering stock are not permitted to feed round bales in ring feeders.

The INHFA national council is expected to decide in the coming days if further action is required on behalf of its members.