Fresh calls for hedge-cutting deadline to be extended after stormy spell

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) is calling for an extension to the closed hedge-cutting period following weeks of wet weather, and the arrival of Storm Emma, in the run up to last Thursday’s deadline of March 1.

Patrick Kent, president of the ICSA, is urging the Government to amend the Heritage Bill to allow for an additional month of hedge-cutting in lieu of the poor weather situation.

“We need an extension on the Heritage Bill; we need another month at least to cut hedges. There are no birds nesting now and the fact that farmers can’t cut their hedges is derogatory.

It’s been too wet for the last few months for machines to go into the fields to do hedge-cutting; they need an extension immediately in light of all the poor conditions recently.

“We need some common sense and flexibility,” he said.

He is also concerned about the impact of the recent cruel weather systems on growth this spring.

“At least half of March now is going to be way below average because the weather runs in at least 10 day cycles.

“The fact is we have had a very low, below freezing point spell; plus the projections are that temperatures will not rise above 10º at any stage soon.

“That is way below normal for what you’d be expecting; soil temperatures will follow that with the result that there won’t be growth,” he said, adding that many animals will be housed for longer than normal.

Food security

Following the Government’s announcement last weekend that farmers will not be held liable for clearing public roads impacted by heavy snowfall, Kent praised the efforts made by farming communities nationwide to keep rural areas moving.

“Farmers are continually doing work, they are the only people with machinery and equipment to do it, and it’s great to see people appreciate the role farmers are playing in keeping roads cleared and providing support in isolated areas,” he said.

Reflecting on the demand for freshly-produced food in supermarkets over the weekend, Kent said the situation illustrated the importance of food security.

“It just shows how much Irish people are into their fresh, perishable food; rather than packaged and processed.

They need their fresh milk, bread, vegetables and meat – the sort of food that goes off in days, rather than weeks.

“It also reinforces the link between the retailer and the necessity to have small retailers, rather than people being totally dependent on large multiples. Small butcher shops, grocery shops and corner stores are vital to communities.

“It’s amazing that it takes a sudden jolt of reality to get people focused on the necessity for locally-produced food,” he concluded.