Private Members’ Bill will seek introduction of crisis tillage fund

The votes of Independent TDs will help secure the passing of a Fianna Fail Private Members’ Bill, seeking the establishment of a crisis tillage fund, according to party Agriculture Spokesman Charlie McConalogue.

The bill will be introduced at 4.30pm on Wednesday of this week, coinciding with an IFA protest outside Leinster House, he said.

“We are calling for the establishment of a €5m fund to help those grain farmers who suffered catastrophic losses last harvest.

“I am extremely confident that the bill will secure majority support in the house.”

McConalogue admitted that the Government is not mandated to act on the bill, should it secure majority backing in the Dail.

But it will highlight the fact that the current Government has ignored the plight of around 500 cereal producers, who farm along the western seaboard.

“All have suffered a cataclysmic drop in income as a result of the atrocious weather at harvest last year.

“The Dail debate will confirm that the Government has the resources to establish the fund. In addition, there is scope to make provision for such a fund courtesy of changes to the 2016 Budget provisions, that can be made over the coming weeks.”

McConalogue said that Fianna Fail had made numerous attempts to secure support for those farm families now enduring significant financial pressure.

“Despite this Minister Michael Creed has failed to budge on the issue, and farmers are sinking deeper and deeper into debt.

“I genuinely cannot understand the Minister’s opposition to a compensation package. Back in 2010, the then Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith introduced the Aid Scheme for Potato and Vegetable Crops Damaged by Frost – so the precedent exists.

“The Department of Agriculture is already running an underspend of €86m for its 2016 expenditure budget, so the refusal by the Government to provide ring-fenced funding for tillage farmers is baffling.”