Dáil debates

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Fodder Shortage: Motion [Private Members]


8:45 pm

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:notes:

— the major role agriculture plays in creating employment, generating economic activity and acting as a custodian of the countryside in Ireland;

— the unique vulnerability and exposure of agriculture to fluctuations in the weather;

— the on-going hardship inflicted upon farming communities across Ireland due to the fodder crisis that has been evident in the country since last autumn, and the sacrifices farming families have made to protect their livestock;

— that the complete and utter failure of the Government to address the fodder shortages meant that there were no contingency plans in place, despite Teagasc advising to prioritise the feeding of meal/cereal based concentrates to plug the fodder gap;

— the farcical situation with the Government reaffirming on 4th April, 2018, that there was an availability of fodder in the country, while co-operatives were ordering fodder imports from the United Kingdom on the very same day;

— that due to inaction, the fodder crisis has become a national emergency, putting a huge strain on farmers' mental health and creating animal welfare issues;

— that some farmers are spending €2,500 weekly due to the fodder crisis according to the Irish Farm Accounts Co-operative, while Teagasc estimates reduced profitability for every day that cows are not grazing at between €2.20 and €3.00 per cow;

— that the Fodder Transport Scheme has failed to address the crisis, as signified by the extremely low uptake and excessive regulatory criteria put on farmers to access the scheme, which had the impact of driving up the demand and price for already scarce domestically sourced fodder;

— the belated move by the Government to open the Fodder Import Support Scheme to all co-operatives and private feed merchants; and

— that the Government chose not to include a measure in Ireland's Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020, which would compensate farmers for losses caused by adverse weather, as is currently permitted; and

calls on the Government to:

— immediately bring forward a hardship fund to help small and medium-sized farmers who have been severely impacted by the fodder crisis;

— introduce a meal voucher scheme for farmers affected;

— swiftly make available low-cost credit for farmers to help pay for the costs of sourcing fodder and concentrates, while immediately finalising and opening the low-cost loan scheme announced over 7 months ago in Budget 2018;

— ensure all balancing payments for outstanding 2017 RDP scheme payments, such as the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme and the Sheep Welfare Scheme, are paid immediately, as farmers' cash-flow problems mount;

— dedicate a budget to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Early Warning System, which supports farmers at a local level, before any welfare problems occur;

— establish a special standing committee composed of relevant stakeholders to monitor and report to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine quarterly, to keep fodder supplies under review with fail safe measures to ensure that such a crisis does not emerge again;

— temporarily halt all Cross Compliance inspections on farms, as well as Bord Bia farm audits;

— include a permanent scheme in the RDP to compensate farmers for losses caused by adverse weather; and

— show flexibility regarding the upcoming 2018 Basic Payment Scheme deadline.

I am sharing time with Deputies Jackie Cahill, Bobby Aylward, Brendan Smith, Marc MacSharry, James Browne, Michael Moynihan and Kevin O'Keeffe. Shall we wait briefly for the Minister to arrive, as long as we are not running down the clock?


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