Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, has accused Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, of exacerbating the fodder shortage crisis by his refusal to engage early enough and failing to put in place sufficient measures to support farmers facing animal feed shortages.
Carthy, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, said Creed must take his share of the responsibility for the emergency faced by farming communities and put in place measures that will work quickly and effectively.
Matt Carthy said:
“From last October farmers and Sinn Féin were raising warnings regarding fodder shortages.
“The Minister’s response was to deny that there was a problem. As recently as mid-February Minister Creed was reported as stating categorically ‘There is no national fodder crisis’.
“In the meantime he established a Fodder Action Group to tell him what was already clear to see and introduced a fodder transport scheme which Sinn Féin warned would be ineffective and insufficient, our fears being realised very quickly.
“It appears now that Minister Creed has finally accepted that there is a crisis and has acknowledged that it is likely become more critical.
“The delay and inaction in the Government’s response to the issues of fodder shortages has exacerbated the problems.
“Following Storm Ophaelia and Storm Brian, problems began to emerge with fodder supply. Heavy and continuous rainfall resulted in limited options available for farmers, as in many cases land was too wet or waterlogged, making it inaccessible for livestock.
“By November last year, it was abundantly clear to anyone speaking to farmers that a crisis was looming.
“Sinn Féin first raised the looming crisis with the Minister in October and we were told a crisis did not exist.
“I called on Minister Creed in November to act swiftly before supplies were at critical level. Rather than take the necessary action, the Minister chose to reiterate his denial.
“The Minister’s state of denial has meant that a crisis has become an emergency.
“While the Minister was down-playing the scale of the shortage and introducing the widely discredited fodder transport scheme the effects of the Government’s inertia was becoming tangible in farm yards across the country. The price of €50 for a bale of silage has become the norm and many farmers have been forced to sell livestock to maintain cash flow on their farm.
“The Minister must apologise for his failures to act in a timely or effective manner.
“At this late stage he must immediately introduce a meal voucher scheme and initiate the sourcing of fodder from abroad as a matter of urgency.
“Any further failures or delays on the part of the Minister on this issue will, I believe, make his position untenable”.