The potential for an unprecedented fodder crisis this coming winter is growing by the day, according to Mr. Pat McCormack, President of ICMSA and he said that the response by Government to date has simply not been adequate. While, Mr. McCormack stressed that he did not want to be alarmist and while the weather between now and next April will be a major determinant of what will actually happen, we need to be preparing for the worst and put frankly, the wait and see approach of the Department and the tweaking of a few schemes and paying direct payments earlier is simply not adequate. If the weather between now and next April goes against us, we are facing an unprecedented crisis and concrete measures are needed now and immediately to minimise the impact.
The fact that the Department is asking farmers to write in requesting a derogation on GLAS fallow land highlights the complete underestimation of the current crisis and Mr. McCormack said, quite simply, any voluntary Department scheme measures that undermines our ability to grow grass should be relaxed immediately and allow farmers to maximise their grass output between now and the end of the year and writing in for permission should be off the agenda. We simply haven’t the time to be dealing with such paperwork. The fodder deficits on farms are growing by the day and this is across all types and sizes of farms and we now require a comprehensive response from Government to prevent a potential disaster in the coming winter/spring period. ICMSA members, Mr. McCormack said, across are reporting very serious potential problems and are clearly saying that every effort must be made to boost fodder supplies in the country and secondly reduce demand for fodder where possible.
In particular, ICMSA believes that the following measures are required:
- A feed/fodder support scheme is now required to import feed. With demand for fodder/feed at unprecedented highs across the EU, fodder/feed should be imported now and supported by Government. Put a scheme in place now when fodder/feed is potentially available and do not wait until it has been used up.
- Our processors of milk, beef and all other farm products must pay the maximum possible price for the produce and they cannot be allowed to take advantage of the current pressures on farmers. Our meat plants have a key role to play and if they are serious about sustainability, they should be supporting farmers now and not cutting prices. There is a clear need for some farmers to reduce stock numbers temporarily and meat plants must support this and not skin farmers with very poor prices. A strongly funded campaign to boost live exports is also required to increase export levels over the coming months.
- With reports that feed orders are taking over a week for delivery, the driver regulations for delivery of feed should be temporarily amended in line with the regulation for milk collection to ensure that feed can be delivered on time to farmers. Mr. McCormack said this is a hugely important issue that had been addressed in the Spring period and should be repeated now.
- The availability of water is becoming a critical issue for some farmers and Irish Water will have to make water available to farmers where required. In addition, other relevant state agencies must facilitate farmers in securing water supplies where required.
- The closing date for fertiliser spreading on 15 September should be extended even at this stage. While this is a number of months away, the decision should be taken now so that farmers can make fertiliser decisions based on the knowledge that the closing date has been extended.
- The GLAS rules need to be amended particularly in relation to species-rich grassland and traditional hay meadows to allow farmers spread additional fertiliser to grow grass and harvest this grass where required. Depending on weather conditions between now and the end of the year, farmers could be facing an unprecedented fodder crisis in winter 2018/19 and Department scheme must not hinder farmers from growing additional fodder at this time in the interest of farmer and animal welfare. In periods like this, certain issues must be prioritised and ICMSA believes that growing grass must be the priority for the remainder of 2018.
- Under the ANC scheme, farmers should be allowed lease out surplus land between now and the end of the year and maintain their entitlement to the ANC payment.
- The Brexit Loan Scheme for farmers should be introduced without any further delay. Cashflow pressures are building at farm level and farmers are asking the question why have SME food companies the option of a Brexit loan for months while farmers are still waiting? The loan scheme must be delivered immediately.
- The financial institutions need to play their part and allow loan restructuring without penalty where required.
- All farmers must be encouraged to seek help where required and all the relevant agencies must respond in a proactive way.
Concluding, Mr. McCormack said, that we are in a very serious situation and the time for action is now and the Minister must deliver on the items highlighted above to assist farmers through the coming winter which is going to be hugely challenging.
ENDS 24 July 2018
Pat McCormack is at (087) 7608958.
ICMSA Head Office: (061) 314677.