Call for urgent assessment of worst flood-affected farmlands
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.”
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