Fodder scheme issues clarified as meal voucher ruled out

Issues relating to the Fodder Transport Support Measure have been clarified by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and hopes of a meal voucher have been ruled out.

Reports in recent days had suggested that the scheme was not available in certain counties; but, the department has stated that this is not the case and that the scheme is not open or closed to any county.

The scheme works on the basis that farmers who prove they have a fodder deficit – once Teagasc verifies it – can avail of the support measures, regardless of which county they live in.

This clarification has been welcomed by the Connacht regional chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Padraic Joyce.

However, Joyce has called for a meeting of the Fodder Action Group to be reconvened in order to discuss how the scheme will work in practice. A date for the next meeting of the group has not yet been confirmed.

Commenting on the matter, Joyce said: “Instead of just announcing the scheme, it would have been better to discuss it collectively with all stakeholders in the Fodder Action Group – so that the operational aspects could have been teased out.”

It is also understood that calls for a meal voucher system to be established are a non-runner.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has been consistently called upon to introduce such a scheme; but, it is believed that his stance on the matter has not changed and that there are no plans to introduce a meal voucher.

Protest

Meanwhile, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) is set to hold a protest to highlight what it believes are the impracticalities of the scheme in its current form.

The national president of the INHFA, Colm O’Donnell, indicated that the minister had ignored the principal recommendation of the Fodder Action Group, which was for a meal voucher.

O’Donnell is of the opinion that the “restrictive nature” of the transport subsidy in place at the moment “has ensured it will not deliver for most farmers”.

The INHFA will stage a protest at the Department of Agriculture offices in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, on Monday next (February 12) starting at 10:30am.

The association’s president described the scheme announced last month as a “piecemeal attempt to sort a crisis that is deteriorating on a daily basis“.

“The protest on Monday will call for the immediate introduction of a meal voucher and the extension of the transport subsidy to licensed hauliers who have for years been providing hay and straw to farmers in the west and north west,” he concluded.

100km limit

Under the scheme, the rates for the fodder subsidy will be €12 for a bale of silage/haylage and €8 for a bale of hay/straw. In order to avail of the new haulage subsidy, the transport distance will need to exceed 100km.

When announcing the scheme last month, Minister Creed highlighted that the 100km distance limit was introduced to avoid interference with local markets.

“We don’t want to interfere with what is an active, local fodder market in the west and north-west. If you go on DoneDeal you can see the number of people offering fodder for sale in those regions.

But there are specific localised pockets where there is a problem and we acknowledge that.

At present, 4X4 round bales of silage are being advertised in the west and north-west region for anywhere between €18/bale to €35/bale. Similar-sized bales of hay and straw, on the other hand, are being offered at as high as €40/bale.

What do you need to submit to avail of the subsidy?

An application under the scheme is only submitted to the department after eligible forage has been sourced, a department spokesperson told AgriLand.

An application requires the submission of the following:
  • A completed forage budget form;
  • A completed application form;
  • A completed co-operative declaration of transport and purchase of forage.

“Given these requirements, applications to the department will arise after fodder has moved and not in the early days of this scheme,” the spokesperson added.

Full details of the scheme, as well as application forms, are available on the department’s website.

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