The Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine must take immediate action to provide some level of relief to farmers who have now endured nearly 12 months of absolutely atrocious weather with stress levels and unprecedented anxiety now rampant throughout the countryside, according to Mr. John Comer, President of ICMSA. Mr Comer said that the last month has really hit farmers hard and must be seen as ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. He said that while farmers and neighbours are helping each other, the pressures continue to grow and farmers are becomingly increasingly frustrated at the lack of action coming from Minister Coveney: “Farm families are doing all they can to help each other out, literally, at grassroots level. But we need some ‘top down’ support to compliment that ‘bottom-up’ effort as well. The situation all over the country is dire and having met with many dairy Co-ops in recent weeks, we see the same story everywhere with debt levels and feed usage at record levels and debts being incurred that simply cannot be paid off this year. We’re also satisfied that while our banks are publicly stating that they will assist farmers, the reality is very different and farmers are being refused credit. The point is that even if the weather improves soon – and please God it will – farmers will be dealing with the consequences of this weather for many years to come”, said Mr Comer.
The ICMSA President called on Minister Coveney to take action in a number of areas and he specified the following:
– The Minister must provide financial assistance to farmers most in need. The Minister refers constantly to Food Harvest 2020, but the very people who will deliver this are on their knees and are getting no assistance from the Minister. ICMSA again calls on the Minister to make an application to the EU Solidarity Fund at this late stage to provide financial aid to farmers to get them out of the current disaster.
– All inspections should immediately be suspended. While ICMSA understands the Department’s inspection process the Minister should – given the pressures on farmers at the present time – suspend inspections for a short period just to remove that one element of stress from farmers.
– The Minister should also make a clear statement that any reasonable issues arising from the fodder crisis should not result in a penalty in 2013. Farmers have had to farm in dire conditions over the last 12 months and the inspection regime must recognise this. The regulations will simply have to take account of weather related issues, for example, the use of additional concentrates should not result in a penalty under the Nitrate regulations.
– The Farm Assist cuts introduced from 1 April should be suspended. These cuts show a total lack of understanding from the Government regarding the problems facing farmers due to the weather and these cuts should be suspended immediately.
Farmers, neighbours and Co-ops must continue to support each other and provide surplus fodder to farmers in need, but farmers now want to see an immediate response from the Minister and some sign that he appreciates the pressures on farmers and intends to provide them with some practical support, concluded Mr. Comer.
Ends Wednesday 17 April. 2013.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office