SIR - I refer to Deputy Michael Collins’ recent letter to The Southern Star, in which he asked co-ops to be compassionate, to show consideration, and to provide support for farmers. I agree with the deputy that this is a particularly challenging year for Irish farmers, due to a combination of weak market returns, and difficult weather. His suggestion, however, that co-ops are less than supportive is incorrect and misguided. The deputy should be aware of the enormous level of support provided to members by Irish co-ops, be they milk purchasers, co-op stores or co-op marts, this year, and in previous years. I refer to the huge level of credit afforded to struggling farm families, particularly in the 2009-2012 period, when our banks had gone missing, the shipments of hay imported by co-ops and distributed to struggling farmers during the 2013 fodder crisis, the price support afforded to milk producers over the last two seasons, running into the hundreds of millions, and delivered quietly and without fanfare.
That support continues as we speak, with co-ops working very closely with individual farmers to help them through the difficult season, to avert personal suffering. It is disappointing to see Deputy Collins, from West Cork, suggesting that co-ops are somehow not supportive of farmers. In his own region, the co-op structure is particularly supportive of the farming and rural community. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any region in Europe where the local farming and rural community benefits so hugely, and is so supported by a strong co-op network.
The Plunkett House
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