'A lot of farmers are not signing up to buy imported fodder as they don't have the money'

There is uncertainty around fodder supplies
There is uncertainty around fodder supplies
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been told that many farmers are not signing up to buy imported fodder as they don't have the money to pay for it.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that the current fodder system had developed into an animal welfare issue as the quality of fodder being fed to animals was poor in some cases.

He called on the Minister for Agriculture to introduce a meal voucher scheme where farmers can get concentrates to feed their cattle.

Kenny said it would be 4-5 weeks before there is grass in the North West and he said farmers are inspections are an added pressure and are not appropriate and they should be put off until cattle can be out on fields. 

He also said that while the agri-food industry is important and a huge contributor to the economy, but the primary producer is not making the money and is on the bottom rung of the ladder and said that the ambition of the sector needed to be looked at and the pressure it puts on farmers.

However, the Minister said there would be 'no row back' on the ambition of the sector but said there were lessons to be learnt for all stakeholders.

"Yes, we are living with the visible impact of climate change..on a daily basis we see it and we collectively will have to factor that in. But I do not believe for a minute that it is time to dismantle our ambition.

"We have the capacity to meet the targets and they are not the Department's targets, but the industry's.

"We don't control the weather but it is true to say we have been dealing with an extremely difficult prolonged period of weather."

Martin Kenny also said that while the Minister was working on good advice, there was better advice available and it was from farmers and the Minister needs to listen to farmers.

Willie Penrose, Labour TD,  said the rush to fulfill 2020 agenda means there are consequences and land is a finite resource. Many farmers, he said, Those who got a second cut of silage, it was low quality and quantity.

He also said that Irish farming used to have a five-month winter, but we're now looking at seven-month winters and that's because of climate change and called on the Minister to fastrack GLAS payments to the 4,000 farmers awaiting them.

"A mature cow or bullock takes 1t of fodder, so instead of 5t farmers need to have 7t available of fodder."

Three-Crop Rule

Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy welcomed today’s Commission decision to grant a derogation on the crop diversification requirement for crop 2018. This will give growers the required flexibility to establish the maximum amount of arable crops weather permitting.

He said the decision by Commissioner Hogan is a pragmatic move, recognising the severe difficulties faced by growers in what is proving to be one of the latest springs in living memory.

"The month of March has been an unusually wet and cold month, particularly across the main arable regions of the country. Monthly rainfall totals for March for much of the East and Southeast were unusually high with Dunsany in County Meath recording 251% of the Long-Term Average. 

"The early days of April have proved little better with rainfall levels in two Cork weather stations at over 300% of normal over the last seven days”.

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