Two-thirds of Donegal grain still to be harvested following flood-woes

Farmers in Co. Donegal are racing to bring in their harvest as more rain sweeps the county, threatening further floods.

Swards of the county’s crops have already been devastated by the torrential rain and flooding in the peninsula.

So far, around 70% of the grain crop in Inishowen remains unharvested, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Grain Committee Chairman for Co. Donegal, Peter Lynch, warned.

Donegal floods
IFA National President, Joe Healy, visits IFA members’ farms damaged by flooding in Inishowen. Image source: Clive Wasson

Lynch said: “The grain situation is up in the air at the minute. Everyone who still has a crop to harvest is seeing that conditions are starting to deteriorate – ground conditions and the crop.

“There’s a bit of the forecast for next week where we might be alright – all we need is one week of good weather; beef men and everyone – we are all just hoping for a break in the rain.”

Last night, more than 250 farmers turned out to the County Executive ‘flood meeting’ in Buncrana run by the IFA.

Around 300 farmers contacted the organisation to say their property had been damaged.

The branch chairman for Co. Donegal, Michael Chance, explained that he had seen significant sediment and rubble covering fields, damage to fences, crop and fodder loss on his site visits around the peninsula. In some cases farmers had even seen landslides and river damage on their farms.

Donegal floods

It’s feared sediment on the fields may also cause instances of fluke, in what has already been a bad year for the disease.

Many farmers were concerned that while it’s been three weeks since the tail-end of Hurricane Gert flooded the region, the damage will continue to mount up as Storm Aileen strikes.

Around 115 bridges and culverts have been damaged, with one speaker saying it was “amazing” lives weren’t lost.

Flood damage on a farm in Inishowen. Image source: Clive Wasson

Inishowen was effectively an island

Initial estimates put the repair bill for the region’s infrastructure at around €15 million – but council officials warn the actual cost could be as much as 25% higher.

The council’s survey revealed more than 600 points of damage across the Inishowen Peninsula.

“We recognise there can be a lot of damage you don’t see,” said Seamus Hopkins from Donegal County Council, explaining that more would be revealed when the winter frosts begin.

“Inishowen was effectively an island – we couldn’t get people in or out by road,” he said.

A load of fodder donated by David Creane, Co. Wexford arrives at Michael Gubbins’ farm in Buncrana. Gubbins lost 106 bales of silage as well as his second cut of silage when Donegal floods struck on August 22. The delivery was co-ordinated by the IFA. Image source: Clive Wasson

“It started off with a few phone-calls in the evening, but by 12 o’clock that night we had made contact with the helicopter,” Hopkins added.

We believe a lot of the damage to the bridges was a result of the debris coming down like battering rams.

“There’s so many issues everywhere at the same time, it’s definitely put a strain on us.”

One farmer highlighted a situation where a bridge was in danger of collapsing, leaving five families stranded. Others raised similar concerns about being cut-off in rural areas.

Donegal floods
IFA representatives pictured as fodder-aid organised by the organisation arrives at Paul Doherty’s farm in Carndonagh. Doherty lost his fodder and sheep when the Donegal floods struck his farm. Image source: Clive Wasson

A helping hand

In accordance with EU legislation, the Irish Government has opened a crisis fund with a maximum payment of €15,000 per farmer.

The IFA has also co-ordinated emergency deliveries of fodder, with some loads coming from as far as Co. Wexford.

However, with a few of the largest farms in Ireland based in the county, some felt the fund did not stretch far enough.

“People have their arms out looking for help. Every farmer needs support, but €15,000 is an insult to some of the farmers here for what they have lost,” one man commented from the floor.

Also Read: Applications open for flood crisis scheme, as calls made for speedy delivery

Farmers will have just over two weeks to make an application and were warned there would be “no free money”. Potential applicants were advised to take pictures to document the damage to their farms caused by the floods.

Donegal floods
Dan O’Gallagher unloads a load of fodder donated by farmers in Co. Wexford. Photo Clive Wasson

“A short application period means quicker payment; so it’s in your interest,” Michael Chance explained.

“The time for clearing up fields is really May or June, so we are in a very bad time of year.”

The fund is unlikely to cover the cost of lost crops and will only pay for damage not covered by insurance.

Seamus Campbell from Teagasc reminded farmers to notify the department in writing as soon as possible if they are missing stock.