THE IFA in Wexford has described as 'brain dead' new government legislation restricting the height of vehicles on Irish roads to 4.65 metres (15ft, 3ins).
Enniscorthy-based IFA Development Officer Adrian King said the legislation, which came into force last Friday, will push up costs for farmers and will result in higher vehicle emissions on our roads because more lorries will be needed to transport the same amount of hay or straw.
'It's an own goal by the government, it's legislating inefficiency into our system. A 40 foot load of hay or straw would traditionally have been carried three rows high, but now it can only be two rows high.
' It will increase the amount of traffic needed to carry fodder. We had asked the minister to defer the introduction of this home-grown nonsense, but it didn't happen.'
Mr. King said the new height restrictions were all the more ridiculous because there were no height restrictions in the North of Ireland.
Up until 2000, there was a general vehicle height limit of 4.25 metres. However, because of European Commission concerns that an incorrect administrative process was followed in setting this limit, it was withdrawn.
Following this there was considerable consideration given to the appropriate height limits for vehicles, in particular HGVs. In 2005 a consultation process was launched on this issue and it was announced in January 2007 that a 4.65m height limit would be introduced.
The regulations were signed into effect by the previous government and were only introduced last week to give the haulage industry time to prepare for the new restrictions.
The reasons cited for the limit are mainly concerned with rail safety and the protection of expensive physical infrastructure, road safety, quality of life considerations for residents in urban areas.
The impact on farming will be considerable, however, and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association has joined the IFA is asking for decision to be reversed.
ICSA President Gabriel Gilmartin said: These restrictions will reduce a typical load of straw by one third.
'Haulage costs will remain constant, so the cost of bales will inevitably rise. Early indications suggest that this could be between €5 and €10 per bale. This change will have dire implications for farmers buying fodder this winter, particularly those dependent on straw being transported long distance from the east and south of the country. It is a restriction that is unworkable in practice and must be reversed as soon as possible.'
Farmers are buying straw for around €8-€10 a bale but by the time the cost of transport had been taken into account it could cost up to €25 depending on the location of the bales in relation to the location of the farm.