Thursday, 29 March 2018
Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this very important subject for discussion. The Minister may remember that the last time I and others here had this subject up for discussion as a Topical Issue, I instanced the huge length of time people had to have cattle indoors. Some dairy farmers in my constituency, Cavan-Monaghan, had cattle, particularly cows, in from the end of July. The long winter of rainfall and, in more recent times, severe storms has contributed enormously to the problems on farms. There was a fodder shortage even before the bad winter. Today I spoke to farmers whom I would regard as very progressive in both Monaghan and Cavan. They instanced to me that there was a heavy frost once again last night, growth is at least three to four weeks behind normal, there is no fodder, farmers face a severe income crisis and they are very concerned.
Again, Deputy McConalogue mentioned, as I did on the previous occasion, the need to introduce a meal voucher scheme. That was the one way to ensure one would get the full benefit of the taxpayer's assistance to the individual farmer. I appeal to the Minister again to give that direct assistance to farmers. Many of them are out of fodder, there is no growth, there is no grass, the weather is cold and miserable and they face a real financial crisis. We must remember that from late July and into August, some people have cattle housed. What a length of time to face these difficulties. Along with the income crisis, they face the fact that there is no fodder available. The only way of providing practical assistance is through a dedicated meal voucher scheme. The farmers to whom I spoke do not want handouts, but at this time they need assistance to remain viable.
In my own county, Councillors John Paul Feeley and Seán Smith tabled a motion on this at the recent council meeting. They told me that following some media coverage they got a huge number of calls from farmers concerned. Similarly, in County Monaghan, my colleague, Councillor Séamus Coyle, raised this issue at a meeting of the Ballybay-Clones Municipal District.
Again, he received a huge number of calls from concerned farmers about the difficulties they face.