Following criticism of the new Fodder Support Scheme over the exclusion of certain Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) land, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is considering ways to include farmers on this land in the scheme, Agriland understands.

Sources have indicated that certain changes are being considered but there is no definite change to the terms and conditions.

However, it is understood that there will be a ‘backdoor’ into the scheme for these farmers without making changes to the terms.

This has not yet been officially confirmed. However, a spokesperson for Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said:

“Minister McConalouge devised the Fodder Support Scheme to support the drystock sector in saving the maximum amount of fodder for next winter in the face of increased input costs.

“The minister is looking at all options to ensure as many beef and sheep farmers can access the €56 million scheme, which will pay these farmers up to €1,000 each to save silage or hay,” the spokesperson added.

The scheme, which was announced on Wednesday (June 15) came under fire for excluding farmers on certain constrained land, many of whom are hill farmers.

Under the terms and conditions, lands classified as ‘category 1’ under the ANC Scheme are not currently eligible for the €56 million measure.

Category 1 land is considered the most constrained land type under the ANC Scheme, and mainly consists of farmland on hills and mountains.

The IFA’s National Hill Farming Committee chairperson Cailín Conneely said that the decision by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to exclude lands classified as category 1 from the scheme is “totally unacceptable”.

“This will exclude most hill farmers who need support from the minister to get through the inputs crisis,” Conneely argued.

Fodder scheme details

The scheme aims to incentivise farmers, in particular drystock farmers, to grow more fodder (silage and/or hay) to ensure Ireland does not have a shortage of fodder over the coming winter and next spring.

Recent survey results by Teagasc show that half of all drystock farmers have spread no chemical nitrogen fertiliser on their silage ground.

The budget for the Fodder Support Scheme is €56 million, with a payment rate of up to €100/ha. The scheme will be rolled out “as a matter of urgency”, according to Minister McConalogue.