ICMSA list specific actions needed to address severe drought problems on farms
With no rain expected for the next week, pressures at farm level are growing by the day and it now requires a coordinated response from all stakeholders in the industry to ensure that farmers can get through what is already an extremely difficult and stressful period for them said ICMSA President, Pat McCormack.
In particular, Mr McCormack said that the specific actions could be taken under a variety of headings;
* Our processors of milk, beef and all other farm products must pay the maximum possible price for the produce and they cannot be allowed to take advantage of the current pressures on farmers. As an example, Mr McCormack said that current milk prices paid to farmers demonstrably lagged market returns need to move upwards.
* With reports that feed orders are taking over a week for delivery, the driver regulations for delivery of feed should be temporarily amended in line with the regulation for milk collection to ensure that feed can be delivered on time to farmers. Mr McCormack said this is a hugely important issue that had been addressed in the Spring period and should be repeated now.
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* The availability of water is becoming a critical issue for some farmers and Irish Water will have to make water available to farmers where required. In addition, other relevant state agencies must facilitate farmers in securing water supplies where required.
* The closing date for fertiliser spreading on September 15 should be extended even at this stage. While this is a number of months away, the decision should be taken now so that farmers can make fertiliser decisions based on the knowledge that the closing date has been extended.
* The GLAS rules need to be amended particularly in relation to species-rich grassland and traditional hay meadows to allow farmers spread additional fertiliser to grow grass. Depending on weather conditions between now and the end of the year, farmers could be facing an unprecedented fodder crisis in winter 2018/19 and Department scheme must not hinder farmers from growing additional fodder at this time in the interest of farmer and animal welfare. In periods like this, certain issues must be prioritised and ICMSA believes that growing grass must be the priority for the remainder of 2018.
* The Brexit Loan Scheme for farmers should be introduced without any further delay. Cashflow pressures are building at farm level and farmers are asking the question why have SME food companies the option of a Brexit loan for months while farmers are still waiting? The loan scheme must be delivered immediately.
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* The financial institutions need to play their part and allow loan restructuring without penalty where required.
* The Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine should establish a helpline for farmers affected by drought and point them in the appropriate direction for assistance.
* All farmers must be encouraged to seek help where required and all the relevant agencies must respond in a proactive way.
Concluding, Mr McCormack said that the current period is extremely worrying for farmers and specific actions needed to be taken immediately that would assist both individual farmers and the sector as a whole.