The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, must “get his house in order” and start “thinking seriously” about a fodder crisis scheme, Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has warned.
The IFA is planning to intensify its campaign on the issue with a major meeting scheduled for Claremorris, Co. Mayo, on Friday, December 1.
Although Minister Creed has repeatedly acknowledged that there are “some issues” with regard to adequate fodder in certain counties; he remains confident that “sufficient supplies” of silage and hay are available across the country.
However, speaking to AgriLand, Healy said the situation on the ground is “severe” – particularly in the north-west, west and north-east regions.
A number of our own county chairman have brought my attention to shortages in parts of Sligo, Roscommon, Longford, Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Limerick and Clare; anywhere where there was heavy land.
“Six weeks ago, we thought there was plenty of fodder all over the country; but, a lot of fodder has been fed out, even in the east and the south. Farmers have had to put in stock earlier, even dairy farmers had to add silage to the diet.
“I don’t know what Minister Creed is basing his response on, because the time to close the shed door isn’t when the horse is already gone out,” he said.
“Now is the time to start putting a scheme in place that will help to alleviate the severity of the problem later on in the year – when there will be undoubtedly a fodder crisis,” he said.
Last month, Healy said he spoke to a farmer from Meelick, Co. Mayo, who had a third of his first cut fed out, was unable to finish 22ac of his second cut, and his slurry tanks were full to capacity.
For a minister to tell me – or him, or anyone else – that there is no fodder problem as of yet; I don’t accept it. The IFA don’t accept it; and we are calling on him to get his house in order and start thinking seriously about a fodder scheme.
In recent weeks, Minister of State for Agriculture, Andrew Doyle, joined Healy to survey the conditions on affected farms. The IFA has met with Teagasc and a survey is underway to identify those farmers who are likely to have a problem this winter.
Discussions have also taken place with local co-ops and merchants to provide a feed mix for those farmers.
Speaking on the issue in the Dail this week, Minister Creed said: “I acknowledge the difficulties faced by any farmer who has been farming on heavy ground; in a year in which there has been exceptionally high rainfall.
However he highlighted that a Teagasc assessment on the pasture sward for 2017 showed a record year for grass growth.
There is sufficient fodder in the country. We have surplus in certain areas and a deficit in other areas. It is not the case that my department has not been proactive on this issue.
The IFA meeting on December 1 will take place in the McWilliam Park Hotel at 8:00pm.
Concluding Healy said: “We will hear directly from the farmers affected. Minister Creed has been invited to attend and speakers will include representatives from Teagasc and Aurivo. All farmers from the western region are encouraged to attend.
“We have to address this now, as the problem has become acute; we cannot wait until the New Year.
Other issues to be discussed at the meeting on December 1 include ANCs, CAP 2020 and supporting the suckler herd.