Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has allocated €1.5m to import fodder, as farmers strain to feed stock.
The announcement of the support measure came after Mr Creed faced pressure from farming organisations and political parties to intervene in the fodder crisis.
The first loads of hay and silage, which are being brought in from the UK, Spain, and France by co-ops, arrived at Irish ports yesterday morning, with more expected in the coming days.
Announcing the support to help with transport costs, Mr Creed said it would reduce the price of imported fodder by around one third for farmers, many of whom have been struggling as a result of poor weather conditions and a supply challenge across the country.
The measure will operate through the dairy co-operatives and will cover forage imported by the co-ops between now and the end of the month.
However, like a similar support rolled-out in 2013, the scheme could be extended if the bad weather continues.
€1.5 million allocated for introduction of a fodder support measure. pic.twitter.com/WLirHtwCgc— Michael Creed TD (@creedcnw) April 5, 2018
“I welcome the moves to import fodder by the co-operatives and these measures support this initiative,” said Mr Creed.
“The co-operative ethos remains very strong and vibrant in Irish agriculture.”
The initial allocation will cover the cost of importing up to 20,000 tonnes of fodder. Farmers can apply for feed through their local co-ops.
The funding is intended to build on existing supports, including the fodder transport support measure, which was introduced last January, when farmers in the North-West of the country came under pressure.
Mr Creed also announced an extension of the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) closing date for grazing livestock on traditional hay meadows until the beginning of May.
However, earlier in the day farming organisations had voiced anger at the slow response of the Government to the severe lack of feed.
Irish Creamery Milk Supplier Association president Pat McCormack said the situation had been well flagged with the Department of Agriculture in the past three to four weeks.
— Fianna Fáil (@fiannafailparty) April 5, 2018
This was echoed by Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who said: “As far back as September last year, farmers and farming organisations were vocal of warnings that an impending crisis in fodder supply would occur should it not be urgently addressed.
“Months on and here we are; Minister Creed’s blatant refusal to act in advance has led farmers nationwide into an emergency situation where fodder reserves are fast running out,” he said.
However, Mr Creed said it would have been “highly irresponsible” to begin importing fodder late last year or even early this year, because, if there had been a normal spring, the State may have ended up paying for the transport costs of hay and silage that was not needed.
Meanwhile, the Oireachtas agriculture committee is to question Mr Creed on the ongoing fodder crisis when it meets next Wednesday.
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