DETAILS on what systems are in place for farmers in Cork South West who have experienced extreme losses as a result of the recent weather conditions, especially in circumstances where milk was not collected and buildings collapsed, were sought in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.
The Bandon-based deputy told the House that her office has been inundated with constituents relaying instances of the difficult situations experienced by them during the recent weather conditions.
‘Farmers were already coming to terms with the fodder shortage and, in my opinion, the inadequate response from the Department by way of the fodder crisis fund, only served to accelerate prices in an already strained situation,’ she said. ‘Now, on top of this, they face potential financial ruin as they count the cost of collapsed buildings, the inability to get milk delivered to creameries and, worst of all, the loss of cattle and sheep due to the extreme elements and unprecedented snowdrifts. I am advised that costs could run into tens of thousands of euro and, clearly, farmers could not have made allowance for this.’
Amazingly, she said, there is no recourse for farmers in circumstances of severe weather patterns.
This was despite the Government refusing the option of including a scheme in Ireland’s 2014-20 rural development programme which would have provided an opportunity to compensate farmers for losses to agricultural land and to production caused by bad weather.
In reply, Minister of State Andrew Doyle said his Department worked closely with all stakeholders and with industry to minimise disruption to critical activities, including milk collection services. ‘I am happy to be able to report that all major issues were resolved in the shortest possible time, thanks to the co-ordinated efforts of farmers, industry and departmental staff,’ he said. ‘As the storm abated and the sector slowly returned to normal, it became clear that the main problem centred on damage to horticulture and other on-farm structures.
‘Such structures will principally be insured and it is important that insurance companies respond rapidly and flexibly to the needs of their farmers customers. It is important to emphasise that public support cannot be provided for insurable risks.’
He said he had also asked the officials to explore the possibility of a targeted re-opening of the 2018 scheme of investment aid for the development of the commercial horticulture sector.