Fodder crisis: ‘Ample funds available to directly support farmers’

There should be ample funds available to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to support farmers facing serious fodder shortages, according to Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue.

Deputy McConalogue was critical of the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed for his continued refusal to put support measures in place for farmers who have insufficient fodder to get them through the winter period.

It was hoped that an announcement regarding a fodder transport subsidy would be made following yesterday’s meeting of the Fodder Action Group in Sligo; but, nothing was forthcoming during the meeting or in the immediate aftermath.

Also Read: Details of fodder transport subsidy not yet revealed

However, farm organisations are hopeful that an announcement will be made in the near future.

Commenting on the issue, Deputy McConalogue said: “Considering there was a €78 million underspend by the Department of Agriculture in 2017, there are ample funds available to directly support farmers with severe fodder shortages.

Supports should include funding for transport costs, to reimburse farmers who have had to pay to transport fodder to their farms – as well as a meal voucher scheme for affected farms.

“A recent Teagasc survey revealed that 85% of farmers affected by fodder shortages in the north-west region alone have less than half of the fodder they need on average for the winter period; this is simply not sustainable.

“Fianna Fail will be raising this issue in the Dail this week, and we will be demanding swift action from the government to address it,” he said.

‘Swift action needed’

Minister Creed was also called on to act swiftly on the unanimous consensus of those in attendance at the meeting – that a meal voucher scheme and haulage subsidy should be put in place with immediate effect for farmers – by the president of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) Colm O’Donnell.

“Department of Agriculture representatives were given a very clear message to inform the minister of what needs to happen, and needs to happen fast.

The stakeholders have spoken and it’s now time for a response from the minister and the government. This stakeholders’ forum set up by Minister Creed must not be reduced to a public relations exercise by the government.

Concluding, O’Donnell outlined that a meal voucher scheme could be monitored in a similar way to other schemes run by the department.

Implementing it in this way would mean it would stand up to scrutiny and eliminate possible abuses of the system, he added.

Likewise, any transport subsidy must give a benefit to the individual affected farmer and be used to set an affordable upper ceiling price for fodder, he said.