On 24 April I established a €1 million transport fodder scheme to help alleviate the difficulties being encountered by farmers. Following consultation with Met Eireann, Co Ops, the farming organisations, Teagasc and the advice of officials working on the ground, the decision was taken to allow a further two weeks for fodder to be imported into the country with a doubling of the transport subsidy fund to €2 million. Fodder, eligible under the scheme and delivered into the country was covered up to Friday 24 May. I also decided, as an exceptional measure, that any definite purchases that were placed by that date, but which will not be delivered until this week, will be included under the scheme.
By the end of this week some 2,300 loads of imported fodder, amounting to about 34,000 tonnes, will have benefited from my Department’s contribution to these transport costs. My Department continues to monitor the situation on a day by day basis and I am very aware of and have seen at first hand, the difficulties farmers are experiencing.
It is also important that while continuing to focus on the emergency fodder position in the short term, farmers should also focus on growing and conserving fodder for next winter’s needs. We should be maximising production in the coming period and I have asked Teagasc to prioritise this policy in their advisory campaigns over the summer months.
It is clear that the main cut of silage will be delayed this year and as a consequence we need to look at the potential for the growing of additional fodder later into the season. In this regard myself and my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan, T.D., have announced a temporary and targeted adjustment of two provisions of the Nitrates Regulations to support additional fodder production on Irish farms in the coming months.
The adjustments involve:
- A discounting of some concentrate feeding when calculating the overall level of phosphorus allowed on grassland farms in 2013 and 2014; and
- an extension of two weeks to the period during with chemical fertiliser can be applied to grassland.
Phosphorous is essential for grass growth. In order to ensure sufficient allowance of phosphorus for grassland application this year and 2014, some meal feeding in 2012 and 2013 will be discounted. The period during which chemical fertiliser can be applied to land this year has been extended by two weeks up to and including 30 September 2013. These measures will provide every opportunity to farmers to maximise grass growth and conservation into next Autumn.
For many farmers, concerns regarding access to credit and flexibility around loan repayments have been a significant issue. I have been in regular contact with the banks, co-ops and feed merchants to urge flexibility and co-operation at this challenging time. I am delighted that these co-ops introduced a number of extremely helpful initiatives such as interest free credit, within limits, to farmers for the purchase of fertiliser, limited to the month of May and reduced price in respect of feed supplies of meal. 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.
The Animal Welfare Hotline which I established remains open for those with emergency situations or who need information about where to source fodder: 1850 21 19 90 (Low-call). The majority of calls received are enquiring about fodder availability and these callers are being referred to Co-ops in their respective areas. Those farmers with animal welfare issues (i.e. animals starving) are being referred to the DVOs where there are systems in place to deal with them on a case by case basis. Further information on the scheme is available from the Department website: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/fodderassistanceapril2013/.