Farmers at 'crisis point' call for urgent help from minister to boost fodder
Farmers are reaching "crisis point" due to drought conditions and have called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to urgently introduce initiatives to boost fodder supplies in order to avoid another "disastrous" winter for the industry.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack told the Irish Independent that while there has been rain in parts of the country, concern among farmers is growing. Many fear they will not have enough fodder to feed their animals this winter.
"We are at crisis point. Despite the rainfall, farmers particularly in the east and south, are still feeding winter fodder supplies and concentrates to their animals," Mr McCormack said. "It is quite clear that the Minister for Agriculture will have to implement initiatives to boost fodder supplies to avoid a disastrous situation arising next winter.
"Let's be very clear - if we have a similar winter to 2017-18, the fodder will not be there to feed the animals."
A Teagasc survey released this week stated the average dairy farm income could decrease by 60pc to €45,000 due to this year's extreme weather conditions.
Mr McCormack said the significant drop in income further highlighted how the Government and other stakeholders had to step in to alleviate financial pressure on farmers.
ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has called for a targeted aid package for those farmers who he feels are the most vulnerable in the current drought.
Suckler farms have already been struggling to work on lower than average incomes for the last number of years.
"Whereas dairy farms do have a lot of support from co-ops and also the benefit of cash reserves from last year, no such comfort exists for suckler farms," Mr Halley said.
"It is clear that part of the solution will have to involve supports being targeted at vulnerable suckler farmers, particularly those in areas where the worst impact of drought persists."
Meanwhile, the IFA has called for retailers to increase the retail price of milk to ease the financial effects of the drought on dairy farmers.
Mr Creed outlined that the department and the Teagasc-led Fodder Co-ordination Group have taken numerous actions in response to the drought.
These include the introduction of zero interest credit facilities by co-ops, while the minister secured an agreement from EU Commissioner Phil Hogan last week that higher advance payments would be paid to farmers in the autumn when cashflow is critical.
"My department is working on a range of initiatives to help farmers during the current situation.
"We are working on a range of issues which are discussed by stakeholders at the Teagasc Fodder Co-ordination Group meetings which take place," said Mr Creed.