BY FRANCIS FARRAGHER
MORE pressure is mounting this week from his own party and the IFA for Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, to take a more ‘hands on’ approach to the fodder and financial crisis that has hit farming in the West over recent months.
Connacht IFA Vice-President, Padraic Divilly, said that there was a lot of disappointment in the region at the failure of the Minister to grasp the seriousness and scale of the crisis facing farmers in the region.
In a statement issued this week, Junior Education Minister Ciaran Cannon, said that he had asked Minister Coveney to extend the fodder subsidy for a number of weeks into the Summer, given that newly harvested fodder would shortly be available from the UK and France.
“The suggestion has come from the Executive of Galway IFA who have pointed out that newly harvested fodder will shortly be available in the UK and France and should be bought now to avert a potential crisis.
“I have approached Minister Coveney directly to put this suggestion to him. Specifically they [IFA] asked if the subsidy could be used to buy new fodder which will shortly be available in France and the UK, so that it can be stockpiled in advance of the expected crisis next Winter.
“I believe that this suggestion merits serious consideration. Fodder supplies in Galway are completely depleted and farmers are facing into a Winter with no surplus and little hope of being able to harvest enough fodder for what may be another very harsh Winter,” said Minister Cannon.
Meanwhile Padraic Divilly said this week that the IFA would be spearheading a major campaign aimed at making available low interest loans to farmers under severe financial pressure at the moments with large sums of money owing to merchants and co-ops.
“First and foremost we want the banks and financial institutions to make those loans available up to around the €200 million mark, and we want Minister Coveney to secure an interest subsidy from the Government, leaving farmers with a maximum interest rate of no more than 1.5%.”
He said that there were serious fears for the future of the suckler cow sector if such a package wasn’t put in place.
“It is very worrying to see the amount of cows being sold off in the factories over recent weeks – the maintenance and replenishment of our suckler herd is an absolutely basic building block for the Irish beef industry.
“It is something of an understatement to say that we are very disappointed at the handling of this crisis by Minister Coveney – the whole seriousness and gravity of the situation just never seemed to sink in with him,” said Padraic Divilly.
He said that over recent years, suckler cow numbers in Ireland had fallen from a high of 1.2 million to just over the 900,000 mark at present, a trend that needed to be arrested to guarantee the future of the Irish beef industry.
Farmers losing out on beef grading machines
Beef farmers could be losing up to €168 per head due to the lack of accuracy on mechanical beef grading machines in meat plants across the country.
That’s according to local Deputy Denis Naughten, on foot of figures he obtained on the accuracy of these beef grading machines.
The figures show that Department inspectors have found machines to be out by a factor of at least 10% on 119 occasions over the last 18 months
Deputy Naughten pointed out that the legal tolerance limit set for beef grading machines currently in use in meat plants is a mere 60% accuracy.
Even though the Department inspectors found them to be out by at least 10% on 119 occasions, on only eight occasions was mechanical grading suspended because the machines had to be getting the grades wrong on four out of every ten cattle.
“The mechanical grading machines in use in beef plants across the country today were first trialled and tested 20 years ago by Teagasc,” said the Roscommon/Galway TD.
“At that time google was just invented and people needed an encyclopaedia if we wanted to look something up.
“Technology has changed a lot in 20 years and we now need new hi-tech beef grading machines and new modern rules to operate them so they can accurately reflect the actual grade of the animal. These new rules then need to be properly enforced by Departmental officials to ensure that farmers will not be exploited,” he added.
See full story in this week’s Farming Tribune. The Connacht Tribune is on sale now, or you can get our digital edition here.
Farmers urged to take part in Brexit seminar
GALWAY farmers and IFA members have been asked to consider attending next Monday’s special seminar on the Brexit issue to be held in Goffs, Kill, Co. Kildare.
A number of high profile speakers will address the seminar including EU Agricultural Commissioner, Phil Hogan; the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed; IFA President Joe Healy as well as senior representatives from the Irish meat industry.
The conference – that runs from 9am to 4pm – is open to all IFA members, although booking is essential in order for the organisers to ‘get a handle’ on the numbers attending. An attendance of about 600 farmers is expected.
Galway-Mayo IFA Regional Officer, Roy O’Brien, told the Farming Tribune that Brexit was the single biggest issue facing the agricultural industry in Ireland over the coming months and years.
“We are looking at a UK market which takes a large percentage of our agricultural produce – what we desperately need is for this market outlet to stay open to us without any tariffs being imposed.
“Ireland does have a special relationship with the UK but we really need to press this issue home with our own political representatives, the EU and Britain as well.
“We’ve all seen over recent months the impact that currency fluctuations alone can have on markets, so the last thing we need is any form of tariff being applied to our exports to Britain,” said Roy O’Brien.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Celebrating half a century of co-operative spirit
The 50th anniversary of a game-changing moment for the dairy industry in the county – which saw the development of co-operative milk processing facilities in Kilconnell – was marked with a gathering of founding members and others associated with the plant and the former Midwest Farmers Co-op last week.
Held in Kilconnell Hall, Friday night’s event was one of deep nostalgia as the establishment of the plant in Kilconnell was recalled but also one with a strong sense of positivity for the future as the plant’s as one of Ireland’s finest was equally celebrated.
The journey commenced over 50 years ago with the decision to develop a central creamery in Kilconnell and three separating stations in Athenry, Athlone and Clonberne, which were to be operated by Kilinaleck Co-op.
The Co Cavan co-op had won the tender to develop the facilities but such was the transformative effect it would have on dairying in East Galway that supply would quickly outgrow the Cavan co-op’s capacity and lead ultimately to the establishment of Midwest Farmers Co-op.
According to Brendan Lynskey, a retired dairy farmer synonymous with Kilconnell and Midwest Farmers Co-Op, the existence of a state-of-the-art facility today at the East Galway plant is testament to the foresight and hard work 50 years ago and more of those involved in the then fledgling dairying community.
“As one farmer put it to me all those years ago, not long after the co-op was up and running, we would never be short of a pound after this. It was a different time. A big dairy herd back then was 30 cows and some people were happy to milk five or six cows and leave the can out on the side of the road for collection.
“The start at Kilconnell was a great time and I worked there for a number of years. There was an awful lot of farmer involvement to get that up and running and the key moment probably was a meeting in Athenry at which it was decided that Kilconell would be the central location and that we would have three separation stations.
“The projected cost of the creamery at the time was €120,000 for Kilconnell and €60,000 to install the additional equipment. That might not do much today but it was an awful lot of money back then and we were up and running in ’66. The building of it was mostly manual work. I don’t think there was any ready-mix at the time, it was all done manually. There was very heavy concrete work because there was an old time churn with a big base so it needed a lot of concrete,” he recalled.
But it wasn’t long, he continued, before Kilinaleck Co-op would no longer have the capacity to handle growth at Kilconnell.
For more of the history and background of the co-op see this week’s Tribune here