Ferris criticises handling of fodder crisis
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has criticised the lack of response to the fodder crisis which has plunged thousands of farmers into extreme difficulties. Deputy Ferris pointed to inadequacies in the state response but was also highly critical of the failure of financial institutions and some commercial enterprises to extend credit to enable farmers to purchase emergency supplies. He was speaking during this evening’s debate on the issue in the Dáil.
Deputy Ferris said: “While hopefully we are experiencing a change in the weather that will at least ensure that the crisis will not get any worse, we are still a long way from seeing it end. Many farmers are still struggling to cope with the demands placed on them, and of course the financial implications will carry on into the future with potentially severe implications for many farm households. That aspect of the crisis it has to be said has not been helped by the attitude of the financial institutions.
“Watching animals starve to death, as many have done, is an extremely traumatic experience, apart altogether from the impact that has on the farm business itself. In some parts of the country collections of dead animals increased by up to 40% and the Department of Agriculture has confirmed that deaths of cattle aged 48 months and over was up by over 60% between January and February of this year and January and February of 2012.
“Apart from the pressures on maintaining farm operations, it has placed considerable pressure personally on farmers and their families. One of the saddest aspects of the crisis has been the increase in farmers who have considered taking their own lives. In my own county, the Farm and Rural Stress line operated by Console in Tralee has reported a significant increase in the number of farmers contacting them in relation to the personal pressures they are under.
“The crisis has, however, brought out some of the better aspects of rural communities which have generally been supportive of their neighbours who have been worst affected. I would also like to commend the farming organisations which acted to bring in feed for their members.
“There is a feeling, on the other hand, that the Department response has been inadequate. Although the Minister’s announcement in relation to imports that he claimed reduced costs by around one-third, was welcomed, some would feel that more could be done.
“ICMSA suggested that the Government might apply to the EU Solidarity Fund for emergency funding to address the crisis. Given that the crisis is estimated to be the worst to impact on Irish farming in half a century surely there would be a good case to make, and would not impact on the domestic budget if that is the chief consideration as it would appear to be.
“While the current weather may at least promise that the situation will not get worse, there is a need to ensure that measures are in place to prevent a repeat of the situation in autumn. The current crisis could have been anticipated on the basis of bad weather in previous years. While no one can predict what conditions will be like later in the year, the possibility of another exceptionally wet summer must be factored in and contingency plans put in place.”