The Department of Agriculture will pay co-ops a contribution towards fodder-transport costs, which will be reflected in the ultimate price to farmers. Allocating €1m for an imported fodder-transport scheme, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said it would reduce the cost (by about one third for a bale of hay) to farmers of hay, silage, and haylage imported between Apr 15 and May 3.
Application forms, and terms and conditions, are being made available through co-ops, which will facilitate farmers who need urgent fodder supplies, whether or not they are existing customers or suppliers.
Mr Coveney paid tribute to farmer organisations, and their members, who have been working around the clock making local arrangements.
He said: “Operating this new scheme through the co-ops is the quickest, and most effective, way of getting the fodder to those who need it. The key issue here is a fodder shortage.”
Farmers urgently looking for forage should maintain close contact with their agricultural advisor.
The department will operate its early-warning system, whereby emergency assistance may be provided to farmers with serious animal welfare issues, and where the farmer is unable to cope.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said only a relatively small number of farmers had contacted the department, despite being requested to do so if they were in acute need.
“I am aware that this is an issue of acute concern to farmers. Obviously, significant numbers of farmers have contacted my constituency office,” he said on Tuesday. He has also met ICMSA and IFA.
Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, has highlighted difficulties in the Duhallow area of north-west Cork, where 90% of livestock farmers are estimated to be without feed, and Dairygold Co-op has come to their aid by importing big hay bales at €135 each.
Mr Martin said milk yields were down by one third this year, due to the fodder crisis, and by 50% in Duhallow.
He said good farmers who have taken good advice all along are suffering, and warned of the effect, in the accompanying credit crisis, of banks, which are generally increasing charges.