The Government is not doing enough to address the impending fodder crisis, MEP Matt Carthy has warned.
The Sinn Féin MEP has criticised the Government’s response to the deepening fodder crises as inadequate.
“We are in a unique situation in Ireland whereby we are now witnessing a fodder crisis that has lasted a full year,” Mr Carthy, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, said this week. “As early as last September, I implored Minister Creed to adopt measures to avert such a crisis but the Minister continually insisted that no such crisis existed. Had measures been put in place at that point we would not have the challenges currently presenting. In fact it took Minister Creed several months to acknowledge that a fodder shortage was a reality on many farms, and a further number of months before he implemented the shambolic fodder transport scheme.”
He said that farmers were still waiting for tangible evidence of Government action on the crisis. “I welcome the introduction of the import supply measures, but this alone cannot make up the huge shortages we are seeing in many parts of the country, especially as the availability of forage on the continent is severely reduced due to the adverse weather conditions.
“I understand the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture will reconvene on September 4 to discuss fodder and drought issues. We need to see a clear plan of action resulting from this meeting and agreement from the Minister to implement it. Throughout the summer months animals have been fed on meal and silage, as grass growth rates have been dismal.
“Generally, farmers can feed grown grass for a third of what it costs to feed meal and half of what it costs to feed silage. By now, farmers’ rainy day funds are almost exhausted, and with a long winter ahead they need decisive intervention.
“Low cost credit can be part of the solution if properly funded by the Department. Last year, the agri-cashflow support loan scheme was heavily oversubscribed and all of the capacity was fully accounted for within weeks of launch, leaving a large number of farmers without recourse to it.
“We need to support farmers in severe financial hardship, who have near exhausted reserves, as a matter of urgency. This should be done through a specific targeted fund. Meal vouchers must be made available to all farmers as Sinn Féin first advocated almost a year ago.
“The decline of farm incomes, in a number of sectors, makes this a perfect storm for the sector,” he warned. “At an EU level I am currently working to oppose the proposed cuts to the CAP budget and to put a stop to the unfair trading practices that drive down farmers’ margins.
“Sinn Féin believes farmers are entitled to a sustainable future, and to support by an Irish Government that understand the risks they take both physically and financially to provide quality food for our island. The failure of Michael Creed to address the escalation of the fodder crisis is a worrying indication of this government’s ability to deliver these goals.”