Over half of farmers who applied for fodder transport support scheme fail to qualify for support
Over half of farmers who applied for the Department of Agriculture's Fodder Transport Support scheme were deemed to be ineligible.
In response to the problems experienced in parts of the West and North-West in the late autumn and winter of last year, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed introduced a targeted ‘Fodder Transport Support measure’ to provide additional assistance to those livestock farmers in parts of the West and North West severely affected by fodder shortages.
The main purpose of the measure was to support the cost of transporting fodder between those areas where it was plentiful and those where it was scarce.
The continuation of cold wet weather throughout March 2018 resulted in a serious delay to the onset of spring. Grass growth remained negligible, ground stayed wet and livestock had to remain housed in many cases.
This resulted in the fodder problem extending countrywide with a consequent tightening of fodder availability nationally.
In response, the Minister extended the Fodder Transport Support measure to all counties to ensure that there was adequate fodder available to feed the national herd.
However, figures obtained by Fianna Fail's Agriculture Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue showed that of the 609 applicants to the scheme, some 312 were deemed to be ineligible under the Department's rules. In total, 297 farmer's received support under the scheme totalling €186,000.
Farmers who applied to the scheme, had to contact a Farm Advisory Service (FAS) approved advisor who carried out a forage budgeting exercise and if a shortfall was identified, the farmer was eligible for the scheme.
A financial contribution of €8 per standard 4x4 bale of hay or straw for feeding and €12 per standard 4x4 bale of silage or haylage.
This contribution was payable towards the additional cost of transporting fodder sourced through the Co-operative system.
Farmers still had to pay the cost of the fodder in the normal way. Only the shortfall in fodder was eligible to receive support under the measure.
A controversial element was the decision to include a minimum distance of 100km which was later reduced to 50km that the fodder must be purchased from.
The Minister said this rule was included so that the scheme did not impact on the normal functioning of the market for fodder and for this reason a minimum transport distance applies.