The fod­der cri­sis is an emer­gency that needs more than a piece­meal re­ply

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - OPIN­ION -

SINCE last Oc­to­ber farm­ers across the coun­try have been warn­ing about a loom­ing fod­der cri­sis which – thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of ex­treme bad weather and in­creased cat­tle stocks – threat­ened to be the worst seen in the coun­try in sev­eral years. De­spite the con­stant and reg­u­lar warn­ings, the Gov­ern­ment and State agen­cies were slow to act and it is only in the last week that we are see­ing any­thing like a co-or­di­nated re­sponse to the wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion.

To be fair there is only so much the State agen­cies can do to pre­pare for such a cri­sis. You can’t, for ex­am­ple, stock­pile fod­der like the grit stores that are main­tained in case of a spell of freez­ing weather.

How­ever, schemes like the fod­der im­ports sup­port scheme an­nounced by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed could and should have been in­tro­duced ear­lier.

In a bid to keep their herds alive and their farms in busi­ness many farm­ers have al­ready spent huge amounts on fod­der and now can’t af­ford to buy enough of the im­ported fod­der, even at sub­sidised lower prices.

All over Ire­land there are hun­dreds of farms that are threat­ened with clo­sure and many thou­sands of liveli­hoods are at stake.

Many read­ers will ques­tion why the State must once again in­ter­vene and bail out the farm sec­tor – es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the fact that this sec­tor al­ready ben­e­fits from a huge ar­ray of grants and sub­si­dies, the like of which most pri­vate busi­nesses can only dream of.

But while it has been su­per­seded by tourism and the tech­nol­ogy sec­tors, agri­cul­ture re­mains a vi­tally im­por­tant sec­tor which is the eco­nomic back­bone of many coun­ties.

If thou­sands of IT jobs were on the line in Dublin we’d ex­pect the Gov­ern­ment to step in. In this case the same is true.

Those liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas – par­tic­u­larly those without any ru­ral back­ground – might be in­clined to sneer at this no­tion but they should take note of one im­por­tant fact.

If the farm­ing sec­tor was al­lowed to go un­der, food would be­come more ex­pen­sive and their wal­lets will be lighter.

Those who say farm­ers should be left to fend for them­selves should ask them­selves where ex­actly they think the food on their din­ner plates last night came from.

You might be able to grow some veg in a back gar­den or a city al­lot­ment but try rais­ing a Friesian cow or a few sheep in a sub­urb.

The Gov­ern­ment needs to help farm­ers through this short term cri­sis but what is also needed is a de­tailed look at how this hap­pened and how it can be pre­vented.

And it is here that the farm­ers can do their part. As men­tioned ear­lier a ma­jor cause of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is an in­crease in the size of the na­tional herd.

This has grown by 20 per cent, to around 1.4 mil­lion an­i­mals, since 2015 – when milk quo­tas ended – without any match­ing in­crease in fod­der pro­duc­tion. That mas­sive dis­crep­ancy has to be dealt with if we are to avoid fur­ther costly re­peats of the cur­rent cri­sis.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.