TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said that the government will consider the introduction of a relief package for farmers this winter, if the fodder crisis has not improved in the interim.
Speaking at the opening of the new mills extension at Drinagh Co-Op headquarters last Friday afternoon, Mr Varadkar told The Southern Star that the animal feed issue was ‘something we are very aware of and something we are very concerned about.’
He said the response to the fodder situation was being co-ordinated by the Department of Environment regarding the weather, and by the Department of Agriculture, who are meeting with the co-ops and farming associations, and also with the banks.
Asked directly if there would be some relief coming for the farming community, he said: ‘That’s going to depend on how things develop. It will obviously depend on the availability of fodder and how the weather goes for the next couple of weeks. There was a scheme put in place last winter when it was necessary, and if one is necessary next winter, we will do the same, but it’s too early to make that judgement call.’
This week Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan said animals were now ‘going hungry’ with the lack of grass growth, adding: ‘Farmers are now being forced to make a choice between bringing their animals to slaughter early, or risk seeing their animals dying from hunger. It’s unfair on them, and it’s time the Department got their act together.’
He said that waiting until a crisis turns into an emergency before doing anything is not a proper, fair or humane way to do business.
‘Farmers want action from the Department; they can’t protect their animals on their own,’ the Fianna Fáil deputy said.
The Taoiseach was in West Cork last Friday to perform a number of public engagements, including launching a tourism website and the Sam Maguire Bells project in Dunmanway, and opening the €3.75m extension to Drinagh Co-Op.
• See also: Farming, page 19