Minister O’Neill assesses Fodder Scheme impact
Following a technical assessment by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of the current fodder situation, Minister Michelle O’Neill has concluded that the 2013 Fodder Transport scheme should end at midnight on 31 May, as previously published.
The Department’s technical assessment would indicate that fodder availability has increased considerably and the cost to the farmer has reduced. Furthermore, the improved weather conditions currently being experienced are leading to better grass utilisation on farms and therefore reduced need for purchased fodder. Although there are localised areas where ground conditions are currently less favourable for grazing, fodder should now be in good supply. Extending the scheme would not necessarily help farmers in these areas. It would risk encouraging stockpiling by others, effectively driving up the cost of fodder. In time, the improving weather should reduce the dependence on fodder, as increasing numbers of stock are turned out to grass.
The Minster said:
“I secured £1million of financial support and my Department, along with the UFU and Countryside Services Ltd, worked closely together to respond quickly to the need of the industry when it became clear that there was a shortage of fodder. The Fodder Transport Scheme brought much needed fodder into the north and this has been widely distributed to farmers. I feel the scheme has helped alleviate the situation for many of those affected.”
The Minister continued:
“Since the scheme opened on 18 May over 9,665 tonnes of hay, straw and silage has been brought into the north. This has been delivered to all six counties. Over half of this has been delivered to the west, where the need was greatest.
“Based on a technical assessment and the improving situation, I have decided to end the Scheme at midnight on 31 May, as previously published.
“I would remind farmers of the State Aid de minimis rules under which the scheme is operating, as support cannot exceed €7,500, approximately £6,400 per farmer, for all aid provided under the de minimis rules - this includes Hardship payments that will be issued shortly.”