Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon has defended the Government’s decision to exclude dairy farmers from the €55m silage and hay scheme announced at the start of the week.
Minister Heydon said funds were put into “targeted interventions” that were expected to deliver the most effective results.
“I absolutely understand that frustration but this is not a matter of money for everyone and a little bit everywhere. This is about money for targeted measures to influence what farmers are going to do and have a direct impact.
“If you try and spread out the €55m over 120,000 farmers and give everyone a little bit, it won’t effect the change that we are trying to do,” he said.
He argued that neither a payment which totals less than €1,000 nor an area payment that delivers less than €100/ha for forage support measures would do little to affect farmer behaviour and ensure
Minister Heydon was responding to a question on the matter posed by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack at the Fine Gael agriculture and rural development special conference. McCormack told the minister that the scheme “went down as a lead balloon with the dairy farmers of Ireland” and that dairy co-operatives had been “pioneers” in importing forage over the last two fodder crises.
Minister Heydon raised the question of whether dairy farmers’ lifestyles have benefited from herd expansion over recent years when opening the conference.
“In this phenomenal growth, perhaps the piece that has been neglected has been farmers themselves, upon who the industry is built,” the minister said.
“The wheel has started to spin faster, and people are running faster to stand still.
“I don’t believe it is sustainable in the long term and we must be vigilant to the impact it is having on farmers’ mental health and wellbeing along with farm safety,” he explained.
“There are a lot of dairy farmers out there and they are getting fed up of running faster and faster with the result of lower margins,” the ICMSA president said later in the conference proceedings.
“It’s not for the fun that they want to be at it. They want to be at it in a sustainable way but a farm family income sustainable way too,” McCormack explained.
The pubic and sectoral representatives heard from officers of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA), Beef Plan and the IFA.