In a lot of cases, farmers will battle out to the very end before calling a helpline, according to the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Joe Healy.

Healy was addressing media at the IFA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) when he spoke about the disappointment regarding the reluctance of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to announce support measures for farmers facing a fodder shortage at yesterday’s meeting of the Fodder Action Group in Sligo.

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He said: “It’s beggars belief how the minister and the department can’t see the urgency of it; there is a huge issue around animal welfare and human welfare.

They talk about this helpline; for one reason or another – and I’m not saying it’s right – but, as farmers, you will try and battle out to the very end before you start calling a helpline. In a lot of cases, that can be too late.

“We are very disappointed that there has been no action from the minister. We will be raising this with him later and we expect a strong and positive response to the crisis,” the president said.

Healy also paid tribute to IFA members who have donated fodder through the association’s county twinning scheme.

He added that farmers find themselves facing a fodder shortage in parts of the west and north-west through no fault of their own.

“It wasn’t possible for them to get their fodder; we saw fields where there were tracks a foot deep and they had to pull out of it. We all know that you need at least two days – and a lot more – to get into fields to harvest silage or other crops.

What we wanted was a meal voucher earlier on, so you could supplement the meal with the silage or the hay – rather than just running out of silage, hitting a full stop and then having to go out to buy silage and meal.

“It’s very disappointing; there’s no point in sugar coating it. It’s very disappointing that nothing has been done; it’s a pure case of them dragging their heels,” Healy said.

However, the IFA is hopeful that an announcement relating to a fodder transport subsidy or a meal voucher scheme will be announced later this afternoon.

Farm safety

On the issue of farm safety, Healy outlined that the IFA will – for the first time – roll out a ‘farmer-to-farmer’ branch safety programme on a national level.

The president said: “Farm safety remains a significant challenge for our sector; we all have a responsibility to do more. In 2018 – for the first time – the IFA will roll out a ‘farmer-to-farmer’ branch safety programme nationally.

“It will seek to deepen farmers understanding of the safety risk on their farm and to empower them to improve safety, by facilitating and supporting shared learning and cooperation between farmers locally.”

He explained that the programme will evolve around a small number of farmers visiting another person’s farm to examine how safe it is and pointing out possible improvements.