Contractors hit hard by fodder crisis fallout
FCI propose voucher scheme to help farmers clear contracting debt
CONTRACTORS have called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to establish a dedicated fund to help farmers pay outstanding debts.
The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) claim that reduced cashflow and the recent fodder crisis have seriously hit members’ incomes as many farmers have been unable to pay for work carried out over the last year.
FCI has called for the establishment of a Contractor Voucher Scheme, with the Department of Agriculture providing contractors with access to a special Identifier number in order to manage the operation of the fund.
The group also called on financial institutions to adopt an understanding approach to farm-related contractor debt.
Farmers needed to be encouraged to manage their contractor debt in a structured way, FCI insisted.
Despite the weather headaches, anecdotal evidence suggests increased sales of silage harvesting machinery this year. Close to 40 new self-propelled harvesters have been sold, industry sources indicated.
FCI research shows that contractors have invested in excess of €25m this year in new silage-harvesting machinery.
However, a lot of those sales took place before the full extent of the recent weather difficulties emerged.
Meanwhile, FCI chairman Richard White warned that the silage season will be a month later than normal this year.
“Given the weather conditions, we are now predicting that the national grass silage harvest will be three weeks to a month later than normal,” Mr White said.
“We are also concerned that the later silage season of 2018 will put additional pressures on farm contractors to meet the needs of derogated farmers who will be required to adhere to the new slurry-spreading deadline date of June 15.
“This new date will be logistically difficult to achieve as we now expect that first-cut silage harvest will run to this date and beyond on many farms. With that in mind FCI is seeking an extension of this slurry spreading date for derogated farmers.”
All FCI members report that their spring work activities are at least one month behind their normal schedule, Mr White said.
“Many were not able to carry out any farm machinery work during April due to the poor weather conditions,” he said.
“There is still a huge backlog of cereal-sowing work to be undertaken, particularly in the southeast, and maize sowing has not yet begun.”