Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Questions (183)

Bernard Durkan


183. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if arising from the experience of the past two years where poor weather conditions have affected the production of adequate animal fodder, any particular initiatives are likely to focus on production methods most likely to succeed in the event of poor weather conditions in the coming season with particular reference to husbandry and animal feed production methods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21791/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the situation stands Teagasc is dispensing substantial amounts of technical/nutritional information in terms of fodder needs on farms arising from the difficult weather situation prevailing from summer 2012. Teagasc advisors are working with farmers on the ground to provide advice as to how to stretch existing fodder supplies and are available to support farmers in need of assistance.

Farm organisations are also working at a local level with farmers, disseminating information through text messages, advising farmers with surplus fodder to make it available on a commercial basis to their neighbours who have fodder shortages and sourcing fodder abroad. The Irish Diary Board, IFA and agri-businesses launched more than €3m of extra fodder aid for farmers this week. The co-ops have also agreed to consider the introduction of interest free credit, within limits, to farmers for the purchase of fertiliser, limited to the month of May. A number of co-ops have confirmed participation in this initiative. This is aimed at ensuring farmers are supported in driving grass production in the months ahead providing fodder for next winter. Grass is the cheapest fodder source on all farms. In this regard I have asked Teagasc’s advisory service to prioritise advice to farmers in the period ahead.

While access to fodder is a priority, grass growth in the months ahead will be the key to ensuring that this problem is overcome. I have been in regular contact with the banks, co-ops and feed merchants and I have urged the greatest degree of flexibility, co–operation and support for farmers at this challenging time given the difficult conditions being experienced by many farmers. Both banks and co-ops have asked farmers to contact them to discuss the terms that are available and have indicated that they will show flexibility on the basis that the longer term outlook for farming is positive and prices are strong across most areas.