Hay will be eligible for the new €100/ha fodder scheme announced by the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue this week.
The scheme, worth €55m and being funded by the State through the Exchequer, is being targeted at beef and sheep farmers. Dairy farmers will be excluded from the scheme, the minister confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal this week.
The maximum payment under the scheme will be €1,000 for up to 10ha of silage or hay.
“There is more of a challenge in relation to sheep and beef, particularly those that are medium or small sized, in relation to making sure that sufficient fodder is saved.
“The key objective, for the sake of all agri-food sectors, is that we have sufficient fodder next year.”
He said that good fodder plans are in play and that the increase in milk prices this year compared to 2021 is addressing the increased costs.
When asked what proof farmers will have to show in order to comply with the scheme, the minister said the “finer details” are still being worked out and that satellite inspections could be deployed to ensure compliance.
“We want every farm to grow what is required for their own farm unit and indeed where farmers can grow more that they can do so,” he said.
However, it will be the second half of the year before farmers are paid for taking part in the scheme, he said.
“It will be in the latter part of the year when payments are made, because we’ll have to open it up and then we’ll have to do the verification. So it will be the latter end of the year and it will be paid retrospectively.
“But we want farmers to sow now and we want farmers to grow now. My key message to farmers is to grow now and keep cutting all year, that we need to do all we can and save all we can,” he said.
I won’t be able to grow silage up in the Dáil come next February or March. Leinster lawn or Merrion Square will not grow
Minister McConalogue added that he believes this year’s store trade will be determined by the quantity of fodder that is saved.
“If the shed is full of hay and the silo is full, at the back end of the year farmers will be buying stores. If there’s a shortage, that’s obviously going to impact. I think the best way to support the sector is targeting it at fodder.”
The minister could not say when the scheme would open in order for farmers to apply, but said the details are being finalised.
“I think this is the right intervention at the right time. We have a full year of growing ahead of us and it’s really important that we make full use of that year. It will be too late come the autumn or too late come next spring.
“I won’t be able to grow silage up in the Dáil come next February or March. Leinster lawn or Merrion Square will not grow – the only place it can be grown is at farm level and over the course of this year.”
He said a “wartime effort” is required across the board and “that different preparations than ever before are required to prepare us for next winter and next spring”.
Separately, when asked if he accepted that there was an underspend in the beleaguered Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), the minister said he was conscious to give every possible opportunity to farmers to comply with the scheme.
“I totally changed the reference year and gave farmers a choice to readjust and take a new reference year, because I didn’t want to be giving any money back.
“But there was an obligation under the scheme, that ultimately if we got to a certain point there would have to be a clawback for some.
Again, in relation to how that clawback is happening now as well, I want to give as much opportunity to farmers to manage that and to engage with the Department around how that refund would take place. There are always terms and conditions and I think every opportunity has been given for farmers to comply, but inevitably there are some who haven’t complied with that and have made different choices as well.”
The Irish Farmers Journal asked the minister if he condoned the recent actions of his ministerial colleague Pippa Hackett where she filmed a farmer carrying out a controlled burn with a permit in her native county.
“It’s a question for Minister Hackett. Minister Hackett is well able to account for herself and her own actions in terms of any comment she has made on it or any comment she wants to make now, I think it’s appropriate for Minister Hackett to respond to that.”
When pushed about whether he would condone what she did, he said: “In terms of anything I do I’d be measured and proportionate in comments that I would make, but likewise in terms of comments Minister Hackett makes that’s something for her to explain and discuss.”