Solution ‘ultimately in lap of the gods’ as drought drags on

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is working with the agricultural stakeholders’ group to guide farmers amid the ongoing drought conditions, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

Commenting on the severe conditions, Minister Creed said that there is only one solution to the current issue: “The resolution of this is ultimately in the lap of the gods, in terms of we need rainfall.

“What we are doing in the stakeholder group is messaging to farmers how best to navigate the current challenges.

“We’re also simultaneously involved in a look-back process in terms of what happened last year, all of which is about getting us to a situation where we can face into winter 2018 and the spring of 2019 with confidence. It’s challenging.

Teagasc is doing its fodder survey now; I will be meeting with the stakeholder group myself next week again, and we will have an update on that.

“Obviously the message is to conserve fodder at every given opportunity, but in the immediate circumstances the issue is to navigate the current fodder shortage on farms as best as possible and taking into account the advice from Teagasc and advisory groups,” the minister explained.

Speaking in the Dail earlier today, Minister Creed said: “I introduced two measures to support the availability of fodder to affected farmers.

I expect payments to eligible farmers under the fodder transport support measure to commence this week.

The minister added: “Teagasc has established a dedicated helpline to provide advice to farmers affected by the ongoing drought. This is being supplemented by a series of local meetings, where farmers can obtain direct support from Teagasc advisers on the spot.”

Secretary general vacancy

Following the news earlier this week that outgoing secretary general for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Aidan O’Driscoll is to leave his post in September, the question was put to the minister as to when a replacement will be installed.

Minister Creed said: “In a way we’re still absorbing the news that Aidan is moving to Justice.

I obviously wish him well; that’s a significant challenge in itself and his leadership in this department speaks for itself.

“So, in due course – though I haven’t a timeline on this yet – but I would hope sooner rather than later,” the minister said.

“The position will be advertised and we can move on; but look, there is a great team in this department and I have every confidence that the team will respond as is necessary and appropriate in the context of Aidan’s departure and when we get a new team leader in place.

“We have big challenges with Brexit, climate change, CAP, as well as a host of obviously ongoing day-to-day issues – this is a very busy department,” Minister Creed said.