Agriculture experts have warned that farmers are facing a serious Winter fodder shortage if the weather fails to improve.
With official records showing that June was one of the wettest on record, grass growth has been seriously impacted and the boggy ground conditions have left it all but impossible for farmers to harvest silage or even put their animals out to pasture.
John Comer, President of ICMSA, is calling for official acknowledgement of what he has described as ‘near catastrophic’ conditions facing farmers all over the country.
Mr Comer said that the time had come when the conditions warranted an acknowledgement by the Department that they would be ‘factoring-in’ the very adverse conditions farmers are experiencing in terms of compliance and inspections. He the scale of the problems being currently experienced and the likelihood that conditions might worsen as the summer goes on now required a proactive and constructive approach both from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and the Co-ops/processors to assist affected farmers through this latest challenge.
Mr Comer called for all outstanding payments under all schemes to be paid immediately and said that the advance payment of the Single Farm Payment was essential.
“The Department must ensure that all payments are made on time this year and they must actively anticipate likely problems and address them before they become intractable,” he said adding that Department Inspectors would have to recognise the pressures on farmers and take a reasonable approach where weather-related problems such as poaching arise.
The ICMSA spokesperson also called on the Co-ops to show support by providing quality feed at the lowest possible cost to farmers “and they must also endeavour to provide reasonably priced substitutes for fodder where farmers find themselves short in the coming winter. Finally, the Co-ops with seasonality schemes must review these schemes and farmers should not be penalised under these schemes due to issues arising from the current weather conditions”.
IFA President John Bryan agrees that early intervention is essential if the sector is to avoid serious issues later this year.
“As it is, the very challenging conditions of recent weeks have led to increased costs for farmers and caused major difficulties with silage harvesting. We estimate that half the crop has not been saved, which is a very unusual situation for farmers at the beginning of July. This delay could have very serious implications for next winter, as adequate feed supplies will be critical for the expanding national herd,” he acknowledged.
Mr Bryan said stock has had to be re-housed in some parts of the country, extra feed has had to be used and production levels are back. John Bryan said the adverse weather conditions will have a negative impact on farm incomes. “Bad weather inevitably means higher costs, at a time when inputs are already rising in price,” he added.
The IFA President has now called on the Minister to intervene. “The Minister has an opportunity to improve cashflow for farm families, and provide some certainty in meeting credit deadlines,” he said.