File image: Michael Gubbins feeds fodder delivered in Inishowen last autumn.
Farmers in counties such as Donegal which have been impacted by the fodder crisis have been urged to complete a Forage Budget form through their local Teagasc office or FAS approved advisor in order for the scheme to be fully activated in affected counties.
The advice follows a meeting held in Longford on Friday with Teagasc officials, where the needs of farmers in the border counties were dealt with. In Donegal farmers in the southern half of the county have been flagging up fears of a fodder crisis for months now, the lack of fodder attributed to the very heavy rains of last summer and at harvest time.
While north Donegal also suffered, and the flooding which hit Inishowen in mid August, doing severe structural damage to many properties across the peninsula as well as to agricultural land is well documented, it was the incessant rain in the south of the county which resulted in farmers simply being unable to get plant into fields to harvest for the winter.
Many farmers have told the Donegal Democrat that they are waiting anxiously to see an improvement in the winter weather and some who are running tight on fodder now are hoping for an early spring, but recent weather and the forecast for the immediate future holds little hint of ground conditions improving in the short term.
Following Friday's meeting in Longford, ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell said, “For regions or whole counties to access the scheme, local Teagasc officials have to be satisfied that adequate fodder is not available locally and must be transported in from another part of the country. The only way they can be satisfied of this need is through farmers completing a Forage Budget form in sufficient numbers.”
“This means that farmers who wish to access the scheme are prohibited from doing so if enough of their county neighbours haven’t also expressed a need. Essentially, farmers are operating in the dark with regards to this scheme as it will not be activated in an area until a magic, undisclosed number has been reached.”
ICSA Sligo chairman Gabriel Gilmartin added, “ICSA believes that this goes against the whole spirit of the scheme which was to help farmers in dire need and to prevent animal welfare issues down the line. The Department needs to reconsider the overly restrictive parameters of the scheme and open it up to any farmer who needs fodder.”
This was echoed by Jim Harrison, ICSA Connacht/Ulster VP, who said, “There is no reason for the scheme not to be fully operational. Those of us in the border counties can’t wait any longer.”