Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Charlie McConalogue says Minister Creed’s hands-off approach to farmers affected by the crisis is simply not acceptable. The party is bringing forward a motion during Private Members’ Business this week calling on the Minister to establish a crisis support fund to provide direct payments to farmers who were impacted by severe crop loss last year.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “I have been shocked by the Minister’s complete failure to engage with this issue, when there are thousands of tillage farmers across the country whose livelihoods depend on the land. Last summer saw one of the worst harvests in recent memory, with heavy rain leaving land along the western seaboard waterlogged, causing the crop to fail. Hundreds of farmers, from Donegal down to Cork, saw large parts of their crop wiped out last autumn and are now experiencing serious financial hardship.
“Despite calls for a compensation fund to assist these farmers, the Government has stood back and refused to move on the issue. Minister Creed and his Cabinet colleagues do not seem to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Thousands of acres of land have been affected, with total losses from the failed harvest estimated at over €4.5m. Pointing tillage farmers towards the new low cost agri-fund loan scheme is not a policy solution.
“Tillage farmers, like farmers in other sectors, have been experiencing increased price volatility and lower profit returns. Low grain prices, increased input costs and poor margins over the last number of years have intensified the income crisis.
“Minister Creed cannot continue to sit on his hands while farmers risk the threat of losing their livelihoods. Specialised compensation schemes have been set up in the past – the Aid Scheme for Potato and Vegetable Crops damaged by Frost was introduced in 2010 and sets a precedent for compensating farmers who saw their crops destroyed.
“Considering there was a €86million underspend in the Department of Agriculture’s 2016 budget, on top of the large underspend arising from Rural Development Programme (RDP) Schemes, the Minister has the money to establish a crisis fund for the hundreds of tillage farmers whose crop was badly impacted or destroyed in 2016”.