Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, has called on Minister Simon Coveney to direct his Department and Teagasc to immediately set-up a helpline for the farmers who are in distress due to the poor weather conditions this summer.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented: "Every day I am contacted by farmers and farm organisations concerned about the effect the terrible summer is having on farmer’s mental health and the need for emergency action and support.
“Farmers have failed to make any quality silage this year because of flooded fields, failed crops and farmers having to feed silage and extra concentrates in the middle of summer. Many farmers have been forced to house their cattle for long periods with all the associated costs. Unfortunately, farmers are also facing the double whammy of huge increases in the costs of concentrates and diesel. Many of them are at breaking point and unfortunately some are gone beyond breaking point.
“There is devastation out there and still the Minister does nothing. It has been a very cruel summer for thousands of farmers throughout the country, especially those in the south. The constant rain has meant that farmers also face penalties and fines under various schemes for non-compliance due to the weather. No instruction has been given to inspectors to take the weather into account in deciding compliance with agricultural schemes.
“Officials from the Department and Teagasc need to adapt to the huge problems facing farmers and act accordingly. The Minister needs to ensure inspectors from his Department and officials from Teagasc are directed to drop their routine work and travel the country to assess damage from the weather and determine for themselves the huge looming fodder crisis. Instead of rigidly sticking to compliance rules in a wholly unprecedented season, the Department and Teagasc need to meet with farmers and see things from their point of view.
“A special helpline dedicated to farmers is also something that needs to be provided. Many farmers are in severe distress about the extent of what has happened this summer, along with cuts to Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) and AEOS.
“There was an ad recently in the Farmer's Journal reminding farmers to reseed. As one farmer said in frustration "the only way of reseeding in many parts of the south would be by helicopter, as the land is soaked".
“The Minister should immediately direct the Department, in consultation with Teagasc, to set up a helpline offering emotional support and advice on the extreme effects this bad weather is having on farmers and their families. He should also draw up a series of measures to deal with the crisis, suggested by me last week, and announce these immediately to give reassurance and hope to the farming community."