SIR – The following is the text of a letter I have sent to all the farming co-ops nationwide: Many of our suckler, beef, tillage and dairy farmers are struggling at the moment due to poor prices, bad weather and other circumstances outside of their control.
I would ask you to be compassionate with farmers who are making an effort to liaise regarding payments and outstanding bills in the hopes of reaching a solution. Please take into consideration that suckler, beef and tillage farmers may only have an income once or twice a year.
Co-ops were set up by ordinary farmers for the benefit of ordinary farmers. However, it seems that some of the smaller independent merchants are now the ones keeping many farmers afloat during times of challenge.
Co-ops need to provide a support system for farmers during good times and bad because the farming industry is of huge value to the local and national economy. I am also calling on the co-ops to pass on the recent increase in global dairy prices, to our dairy farmers. This should be reflected immediately by the prices paid for milk by our co-ops.
I am asking you to have a bit more forbearance with farmers who may not have money this winter, but who will have adequate cashflow in Spring, Summer or Fall of the coming year. One of the supports you could put in place is a change in your billing system to make it more flexible and allow for famers who are paid periodically rather than monthly.
The success of your co-operative is due largely to the co-operation that has existed between co-ops and the farming community over the years. However, the changing needs of the farming community will need to be taken into consideration to ensure the continued success of this longstanding relationship.
Michael Collins, TD,