A multimillion-euro scheme aimed at supporting struggling farmers import fodder is to be announced by the agriculture minister today.
It will be on the same scale as a 2013 relief programme which provided €3m in support, but as it will be “demand led”, the level of funding may even surpass this.
It comes as Met Éireann has issued two yellow status weather warnings with heavy rain forecast across Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.
Minister Michael Creed hopes to announce the full details of the scheme, which would pay for the importation of fodder provided through co-ops, by the end of today.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said the scarcity is due to the combination of a wet summer, bad weather over the winter and poor growth and has caused the “perfect storm”.
“We have had an exceptionally long winter, which is now impacting on farmers, particularly in the south, south west and south east where a lot of farmers budget on the basis of cattle being out from late February or early March at the latest. So it means we are now up to six weeks behind.
Mr Creed convened a meeting with Teagasc and dairy co-operatives in Fermoy, Co Cork, yesterday and confirmed his department was finalising a support scheme. He urged farmers who have supplies to make these available to neighbours through local groups, co-ops, and Teagasc.
Some co-ops have already begun importing fodder, including Dairygold, which has 2,500 tonnes of hay and silage arriving into the country in the coming days.
However, IFA president Joe Healy said Mr Creed’s acknowledgement of the extent and seriousness of the fodder shortage is too little, too late.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture Charlie McConalogue says said the minister’s failure to address the situation has had a direct impact on the severe conditions affecting farms.
“Despite warnings from my party and farm organisations as far back as September last year, the minister ignored farmers and failed to take any concrete action to address the situation. As the bad weather continued through the winter, it increased pressure on fodder stocks as animals were being kept indoors and feed was being used up,” he said.
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy accused Mr Creed of exacerbating the fodder shortage crisis by his refusal to engage early enough.
But Mr Creed defended his actions, claiming that if a similar scheme had been announced earlier in the year and the weather had not been bad then the State could have been left with a bill for importing fodder that was not needed.
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