Call for ur­gent as­sess­ment of worst flood-af­fected farm­lands

Irish Independent - Farming - - News - De­clan O’Brien

FARM­ERS were count­ing the cost of con­tin­ued atro­cious weather this week, with flood­ing in the mid­lands ap­proach­ing dis­as­ter lev­els, and farm­ers in the west of the coun­try strug­gling to main­tain ac­cess to their farms.

It is es­ti­mated that 15,000ha along the Shan­non be­tween Lough Derg and Leitrim are now flooded, and wa­ter lev­els are within nine inches of the record floods of 2009.

It is a sim­i­lar story along the rivers Bar­row and Suir, with both hav­ing flooded thou­sands of hectares across the south­east.

Fig­ures from Met Éire­ann show that seven storms so far this year have wreaked havoc across the coun­try. Rain­fall lev­els are run­ning 57pc ahead of nor­mal in Bel­mul­let, 66pc up in Valen­tia and close to 80pc ahead of av­er­age in Oak Park, Co Car­low. And there is no let-up in sight, with another storm fore­cast to hit the south­west tomorrow.

In a tour of af­fected ar­eas last week, the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Si­mon Coveney, said his Depart­ment would take “a com­mon sense” ap­proach to farm in­spec tions and that farm­ers need not be wor­ried or con­cerned.

Min­is­ter Coveney said Tea­gasc was al­ready en­gag­ing with clients who had been af­fected by bad weather. In ad­di­tion, he said had asked Tea­gasc to make prac­ti­cal ad­vice avail­able to all farm­ers on steps which can be taken to deal with their par­tic­u­lar prob­lems.

“My Depart­ment is also in c l ose con­tac t with farm or­gan­i­sa­tions through the Farm An­i­mal Wel­fare Ad­vi­sor y Coun­cil, whose mem­bers on the ground are very well placed to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion. It is at times like this where the com­mu­nity spirit within the f arm­ing com­mu­nity comes to the fore.”

PRO­POS­ALS

IFA pres­i­dent Ed­die Downey called on Tea­gasc to carry out an im­me­di­ate as­sess­ment of the dam­age to farm vi­a­bil­ity in the worst af­fected ar­eas and to come for­ward with pro­pos­als to as­sist farm fam­i­lies af­fected.

The IFA pres­i­dent said in the l onger t er m, a s i gnifi c ant in­vest­ment pro­gramme would be needed to alle vi­ate the pres­sure on farm­ers liv­ing near rivers and coastal ar­eas.

IFA flood project team chair­man Tom Tur­ley said the Gov­ern­ment needed an over­all strat­egy to tackle the flood­ing is­sue which has af­fected ar­eas such as the Shan­non Basin and Shan­non cal­lows par­tic­u­larly, and other river basin catch­ments. He said the main chan­nel of the Shan­non be­tween Athlone and Meel­ick, Co Gal­way, had to be cleared as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

ICMSA pres­i­dent John Comer said the re­cent cri­sis high­lighted the need for the es­tab­lish­ment of a na­tional wa­ter­ways au­thor­ity that would take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the main­te­nance of the State’s in­ter­nal wa­ter­ways and des­ig­nated stretches of coast­line from what Mr Comer called “the plethora” of agen­cies, bod­ies and quan­gos cur­rently re­spon­si­ble for the sys­tem.

Mean­while, the dif­fi­cul­ties be­ing faced by farm­ers and ru­ral res­i­dents were high­lighted by a stand-off in west Clare where the county coun­cil at­tempted to close the main coast road into Kil­baha on Loop Head.

Lo­cal farm­ers and other res­i­dents pre­vented the coun­cil move, i nsis t i ng that an al­ter­nate bog road to the vil­lage would be un­able to t ake milk and meal trucks which lo­cal dairy and beef farm­ers said would have to have ac­cess to the area.

COV­ERED: Pic­tured is IFA Pres­i­dent Ed­die Downey on the farm of Michael Ry­der from Ar­dra­han, Co Gal­way who has most of his farm and farm­yard un­der wa­ter as a re­sult of the re­cent weather. Also pho­tographed are (l-r): Ber­tie Roche, Gal­way IFA en­vi­ron­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Tom Tur­ley, of the IFA na­tional flood project team, Michael Ry­der and Gal­way IFA county chair­man Michael Flynn

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