IT was evident from last September and October that we would have a fodder crisis of some sort, as silage being cut at the time was of poor quality, if one was lucky enough to be able to cut it, Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) told the Dáil.
‘Any politician worth his or her salt would have known at Christmas that a crisis of major proportions was on the way,’ he said. ‘I watched trailers of silage going through West Cork several times daily. I made it my business at the time to speak with farmers, both milkers and suckler farmers, and they all told me the same story – that they were in serious trouble.’
Speaking during a debate on the fodder crisis, Deputy Collins said he wrote to the Minister on January 11th about the crisis. ‘I outlined four actions that needed to be taken and if only some had been completed, we would not be in such a deep crisis now,’ he said.
‘First, I asked that a fodder transport subsidy be put in place to assist the movement of fodder for affected farmers.
‘Second, I asked that livestock meal vouchers be made available immediately.
‘Third, I asked for an aid package for farmers to help purchase fodder at the time to help them deal with the crisis,’ the Goleen deputy said.
‘Fourth, I asked the Minister and the Department to co-ordinate with the Health Service Executive on a support system for farmers who might have been experiencing psychological stress because of their financial position.’
Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) asked the Minister to pay the outstanding one third of the Glas scheme, and the sheep farm payments due since last Christmas. ‘I am referring to last year’s payments that still have not been paid and at least that would give farmers a little more cashflow,’ she said.
Cork North West Deputy Michael Moynihan (FF) said the mental health of farmers is also an issue in the current fodder crisis.
Farmers, he said, are grappling with decisions they have made over the past five years, particularly since quotas were abolished.
‘They increased the size of their herds and their borrowing capacity and so forth,’ he said. ‘They are in a stressful place as are their spouses and children. We need to acknowledge that there is a crisis and we need to encourage them to come forward and talk about it.’