Thursday, 29 March 2018
Topical Issue Debate
I do not doubt the sincerity of any of the individuals opposite and have listened with interest to their points. I assure them that the departmental officials and I are actively monitoring this issue on a daily basis. In addition to my own activities in respect of this matter, being in the community, meeting farmers in my constituency and elsewhere, I have taken the opportunity to engage with the agribusiness interests in many parts of the country to find out about the situation in their respective areas. I am reassured by the willingness of those businesses to partner with the agricultural community at this difficult time and to assist with fodder provision and credit lines. That is a strength and hallmark of the co-operative movement.
The message should go out from here that it is alright for farmers to put their hands up now and say they are having specific individual difficulty. From the engagement I have had, particularly with the co-operative movement, I am quite satisfied that there will be a meaningful response from the co-ops to help them.
In the context of the specific case mentioned by Deputy Scanlon, and for anybody else in a similar situation, the Department has the capacity to respond to individual cases on welfare grounds to help farmers who are looking at the back of a silage pit wall, who have no other options and who have cattle bellowing in their sheds. That is a very traumatic and challenging situation. The Department can and will respond, as it has done in the past, in respect of those who find themselves in such circumstances.
I cannot predict the weather. We are tracking daily grass growth on PastureBase. It is significantly below- by a factor of over two - the level that obtained at this time last year. Soil temperatures are also below where they need to be but are beginning to recover. It will take time. We are also getting a handle on fodder levels throughout the country. We are satisfied that there is still a mismatch between where it is located and where it is needed, but substantially adequate quantities of fodder are available. That is why I say to individual farmers to approach co-ops and agribusinesses where they will find a willing ear. The Department is tracking this daily. I am constantly engaging with the officials on the matter. I will take the details of the case mentioned by Deputy Scanlon and follow up on it.