The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have called for additional support to assist farmers access meal and fodder supplies this autumn and winter. Speaking at the Associations Annual General Meeting held in Carrick on Shannon, National President Vincent Roddy outlined the need for additional supports to assist farmers with spiralling costs, resulting from the ongoing war in Ukraine.
In his closing address, Roddy stressed to those present, how farmers need support and certainty and called on Minister McConalogue, who attended the meeting “to consider top-up payments to existing schemes, such as the sheep welfare scheme, our suckler support schemes and the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) as a mechanism to pay farmers.”
In welcoming the measures announced by the Minister last month to support farmers making hay and silage, the INHFA President pointed out “how there are some farmers, especially in hill areas that are not in the position to make hay or silage and buy-in all their fodder supplies.” These farmers will, he added, “see very little benefit from the support announced which is why we are proposing these top-up payments.” By topping up payments on existing schemes farmers will, he continued “have the flexibility to decide, how best they can meet their fodder requirements, whether that be silage, hay or meal.”
Moving beyond the immediate concern around hay and silage, Roddy pointed to growing concern around the price of animal meal. This, he stated, is always in high demand come autumn and winter as farmers try to finish stock and additional support , will be essential in supporting the overall trade.”
The Associations AGM also saw calls for a new approach on forestry with the focus being trees on the farm rather than trees replacing the farm.
There was also a call for additional funding of €150m/year for the Pillar 2 Programme of CAP which the Association maintains would deliver improved support for suckler and sheep farmers and greater access to the new Agri-environment Programme – AECM.
With regard to the AECM, concern was expressed to the Minister relating to access and the proposed scorecard that will determine payment rates. This the INHFA President stated “is a major concern especially on commonages where individual farmers don’t have full control of the land area.”
Another issue of huge concern was land designations and their restrictive nature, which continues to undermine farming activity and income. In addition to this, proposals under the EU Biodiversity Strategy to dramatically increase the area of land designated and introduce an even more restrictive designation type were outlined. On this, a number of contributors made the point that any such proposal must be discussed in the Oireachtas and with all relevant stakeholders, before any decision is reached.