Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

Farmers being ignored in plans to curb flooding

Flooded fields and roads near Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Flooded fields and roads near Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Last year’s winter storms caused devastation along the 10,000 square mile River Shannon catchment. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
IFA president Joe Healy
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers, rural areas and farmland are being ignored in national plans to reduce flood risk, the IFA has warned.

A national strategy must be put in place to deal with the significant damage that has occurred on lands and property, IFA president Joe Healy told the National Flood Forum.

"Flood events on the River Shannon used to be a once in 100 year occurrence. The fact that two such events have occurred in the last seven years must spur action and lead to the implementation of major works," he said.

He said the draft Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management programme had addressed the protection of large towns and some villages but has ignored farmers and rural areas.

Mr Healy said it was positive that works were taking place at key points on the Shannon which have not been maintained for almost 100 years, but insisted that it must be accelerated.

Concerns were also raised that, due to the slow process of proposals and project planning, the money allocated in recent Budgets would not be spent on the capital works.

Meanwhile, some farmers in the west have heavily dipped into their winter forage stocks, with some reporting levels as low as 15-20pc of their requirements until May.

Teagasc advisor Tom Coll said some farmers who had to house stock early still have not budgeted ahead for a potentially long winter.

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He said most farmers will be using concentrates at around €225/t to solve the problem of low fodder levels. Mr Coll pointed out if the farmer has 50pc of their fodder requirements they can top up with concentrates.

"Teagasc are currently working to get a better handle on what the situation is like," he said, with a fodder survey being carried out across the north-western counties.

Demands have been growing for a fodder aid package before Christmas, with INHFA president Colm O'Donnell warning that many farmers in the north-west will be facing into 2018 with most of their fodder supplies used up due to early feeding and problems taking a second cut of silage.

"Many farmers are facing into their fourth month of feeding with another five still to come and what they need to see is recognition from Agriculture Minister Michael Creed that there is a crisis and a plan in the form of a fodder scheme to help them," he said.

He suggested a meal voucher scheme, a transport haulage subsidy and a monitoring role for Teagasc.

This he said "can provide the basis for a fodder aid scheme" but "immediate action is required" to avert animal welfare issues in early 2018.

The INHFA will hold a national rally to call for action on fodder at 8pm on December 1 in the Sligo Southern Hotel.

The IFA president said the deepening fodder problems will have to be addressed by the minister, with difficult weather conditions since August leaving farmers with a severe crisis.

"There is no doubt that there is an urgent need for a scheme," said Mr Healy of an IFA meeting also on December 1 at 8pm in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co Mayo.

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