By Olivia Kelleher
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has defended the Government's handling of the fodder crisis insisting that they are dealing with a "dynamic situation which is changing on an almost weekly basis".
Speaking to farmers during a delivery of fodder at the Dairygold Co Op in Millstreet, Co Cork today Minister Creed said every effort was being made to remedy the situation.
"I think one of the most important things we have seen so far is that the quality of the fodder is top class.
It has been very good quality fodder so far and that is very important.
"What we have announced now is a financial package until the end of the month. At the end of the month it will be reviewed and we will continue to support the transport costs with the co-ops for as long as is necessary."
Judging from 2013 it started on April 20th and it continued right up until the June Bank Holiday."
If necessary we will stick with it as long as that. But obviously we hope that the weather will give us a break as well."
Minister Creed said their ambition was to deliver the fodder at cost. The Department in conjuction with the Co-Ops are meeting the transport costs.
He acknowledged that the never ending winter has been very hard on farmers.
"When we move from this very difficult period, I think all of us - all stakeholders - will have to sit down and learn the lessons from this in terms of changing weather? This is the second time in five years we are in this situation.
"How can we build our resilience in these matters?"
Minister Creed said in October they brought forward the date for the Single Farm Payment and made the maximum payment permitted at the time.
He also defended their decision not to import fodder earlier.
"If we had started importing at an earlier stage and we had got an early or a normal Spring? What we have been doing all along is dealing with a dynamic situation which is changing on an almost weekly basis.
We are working with all of the stakeholders including the co-ops, Teagasc, individual farm organisations and taking it as appropriate at any given time.
"In 2013 it was 40,000 tonnes (of fodder imported) - it was about 2,800 truck loads.
"What we said is, from dusting down that template, we have provision made between here and the end of April. If necessary, if the weather continues and the importation continues to be necessary, we can revisit that."
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has called for the Fodder Import Subsidy Scheme to be made available through all Co-Ops as well as private feed merchants.
“The Scheme is inexplicably confined to the Dairy Co-Ops and excludes Mart CoOps as well as private feed merchants. This means that many parts of the country which do not have a strong Dairy Co-Op network will struggle to avail of fodder through the scheme.
"In particular, the Ministers decision to confine the subsidy to Dairy Co-Ops would disadvantage those in the suckler and sheep farming sectors that are also under massive pressure to source scarce fodder to manage livestock through the next few weeks."
He added that in 2013 all Co-Ops were eligible to avail of the subsidy scheme introduced to import fodder and claims that it makes no sense that Minister Creed would now exclude Mart Co-Ops and private feed merchants that are "well placed" to serve the needs of their local farming community.