What is a diadvantaged farmer
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív has hit the ground running since Micheál Martin brought him back into the party’s front bench in mid-July.
He has helped to highlight what many fear is a perfect storm brewing for farmers — of bad weather, rising livestock feed costs, falling cattle prices, and poor grain harvest prospects.
* Farmers have until tomorrow to apply for derogations from new Disadvantaged Area Scheme conditions. You want Minister Coveney to scrap the new conditions. But the changes have been approved by the European Commission?
>>Permission was required for any change to the DAS scheme.
There was a delay in granting same by the EU, because it appears they had questions regarding the proposed changes.
There is no indication that they would have or had any difficulty with the scheme as it was.
Therefore, it should not pose any difficulty for the minister to revert to the original rules regarding stocking density.
* You say smaller farmers stand to lose as much as €3,000, due to new Disadvantaged Area Scheme conditions. What kind of farmer will be worst affected?
>>The farmers who will be most affected are likely to be hill farmers with access to commonage.
The situation is that we will not know fully until we get a clearer definition of “marginal land”.
On face value, this whole exercise could result in a major bureaucratic exercise, with major delays, appeals and very little savings, if all of the derogations allowed for are applied in an open manner.
This exercise has all the hallmarks of a badly thought-out exercise, that will hit the farmers on the worst land, and older farmers.
* You said recently that some farmers are gone beyond breaking point due mainly to the effect of the terrible summer weather, and called for a helpline offering emotional support and advice. What areas and what type of farmers are worst affected?
>>The area worst affected seems to be the southern half of the country, and all types of farming are affected.
Because of the cost implications, more intensive farmers seem very badly affected as, of course, are those who have land liable to flooding. This includes intensive beef and dairy farmers, particularly farmers operating on high turnover and tight margins.
* You have called for inspectors to take the weather into account in their cross-compliance checks. Are there any examples of how inspectors are rigidly sticking to compliance rules despite unprecedented farming conditions.
>>I have not been given examples of problems with inspectors to date. My proposal was in the nature of a “stitch in time saving nine” and that the minister should act before there is a problem. This would be the sensible thing to do.
* You have called for measures such as a feed subsidy, low interest loans, a 70% Single Payment advance, new live and meat trade sales outlets for livestock, and re-opening of AEOS. Have you seen any progress in delivering any of these?
>> Unfortunately there has been no response from the minister, although his current budget is already €22m behind profile in spending this year.
He seems to be sitting on his hands and doing nothing. The ancient story of the inaction of Nero in Rome would spring to mind. He should be out there with the farmers and should be taking action. His silence is extraordinary at this time.
* You noted that farming by its nature is an uncertain business, and farmers normally accept the ups and downs of farming as a matter of course. Have farmers failed to adequately highlight their 2012 weather problems?
>> I believe the problem in highlighting how grave the situation is in farming is because it has happened day by day, over a protracted period, rather than in one calamitous event of nature.
If the amount of loss and hardship that has been caused by the incessant rain had happened overnight, there would be a much greater sense of solidarity with the farmers.
People like me and the farm organisations must continue to highlight the issues and fight the farmers’ cause, otherwise our most important industry, jobs wise and employment wise, will suffer to the detriment of all our people, whether in cities or in the countryside.
The simple fact is that to overcome our current economic woes we need a strong and vibrant farming and food and drinks sector.