Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has criticised the Government’s response to the deepening fodder crises as inadequate. Carthy, member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, commented this week:
“We are in a unique situation in Ireland whereby we are now witnessing a fodder crisis that has lasted a full year. 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 crises 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.
“As we approach another winter, farmers across the country are still awaiting any tangible evidence of government action. 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 availably 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 days 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 famers 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. 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”.