Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, Michael Creed TD, has announced the introduction of a Fodder Transport Support measure to provide additional assistance to livestock farmers in the West/North West most severely affected by the prolonged wet weather last autumn.
In many of these cases the inability to conserve fodder was compounded by the need to house livestock much earlier than normal owing the very poor ground conditions.
Launching the measure, the Minister acknowledged that a key issue to resolve was the cost of transporting fodder between those areas where it was plentiful and those where it was scarce.
"Fodder remains available across the country but I am conscious of the significant additional cost to farmers where fodder has to be transported over significant distance to areas where it is most needed," he said.
A financial contribution is being provided to offset transport costs of hay, silage and straw for feeding, where this involves a distance of more than 100 km, to areas of the West and North West most affected.
Farmers, who have an identified fodder shortage, having completed a fodder budgeting exercise with their agricultural advisor, will be eligible to receive a financial contribution towards offsetting the costs of transport of fodder.
Financial assistance under the Fodder Transport Support Measure is payable in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) No 1408/2013 on de minimis aid in the agricultural production sector.
"As fodder is traded between farms on a regular basis, it is essential that the support measure being announced is targeted at those who most need it and does not impact on the normal functioning of the market for fodder. This is now the case and I am grateful that the co-op structure is supporting the practical implementation of this measure," the Minister said.
Senator Frank Feighan welcomed the introduction of the scheme.
“I and many others have called for the introduction of a support scheme. Fodder shortages are being felt most acutely by farmers in the North West and West. A recent Teagasc fodder survey involving more than 90 farmers from Leitrim and Sligo confirmed then that more than 90 per cent of them feared they would be facing serious fodder shortages this winter.
“The survey revealed that stock owners generally had 35pc less feed than they will need for their cattle.
“I acknowledge Minister Creed’s recent comments that there is a surplus of fodder in certain areas of the country and a deficit in other areas. However, many farmers in this region are facing into a very challenging period in ensuring their cattle have enough feed.
“We must ensure that sufficient supports are place in the event of any shortages and the introduction of this scheme will provide some relief for affected farmers,” he said.
The ICSA has also welcomed the announcement of a transport subsidy for fodder.
“The announcement by Minister Creed will certainly be a relief for those with rapidly dwindling fodder supplies. We await clarification on the detail but the priority must be for money to flow in to the scheme as soon as possible. Red tape must be minimised,” according to ICSA president Patrick Kent.
ICSA rural development chair Seamus Sherlock said, “The situation is particularly bad in many western and border counties and we need it in place quickly. We want to see co-ops and the Department work closely so that there are no more delays.”
Commenting on the development, ICSA Sligo chairman Gabriel Gilmartin said, “There will have to be flexibility on the 100km rule to avail of funds. A common sense approach will have to be adopted. I am disappointed that meal vouchers have not been included in the scheme, which would have been a better value solution than transporting fodder across the country.”
ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell added, “Farmers in the border counties have been eagerly anticipating this announcement. ICSA will continue to assist in sourcing supplies and getting it to where it’s needed most.”