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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Margaret Donnelly Twitter Email

Margaret Donnelly: Longer-term plan to respond to crises in the agriculture sector is more important than ever

Margaret Donnelly

The ink will hardly be dry on the Department of Agriculture’s latest assessment of Irish agriculture for its CAP plan, which identified the sector’s weakness of relying on ad hoc schemes to respond to crises, yet another ad hoc fodder scheme will be on the way.

The question that now faces our policymakers is whether there is any other option or will the sector lurch from crisis to crisis with no long-term plan that mitigates the situation?

There’s no question but with feed, fertiliser and contractor costs at record levels, there are concerns for supplies of fodder next winter.

Most farmers expected to be using less fertilisers in the coming years, but few anticipated the tap being turned off all of a sudden.

Farmers have been told not to panic, but that’s easy to say if you don’t have livestock to feed and not a lot of grass to feed them.

Whatever about the production of food this year, the mathematics of fodder availability is a simple supply and demand question. The more livestock you have, the more feed you need.

However, at this point it looks like policymakers are going to steer clear of looking at the demand side and are unlikely to ask farmers to cut livestock numbers anytime soon.

It will be interesting to see if farmers themselves decide to take action, with many farmers saying it’s not a year to be overstocked.

On the supply side, the Government’s options are not straightforward with indications suggesting that support for tillage farmers will be the priority in an effort to encourage those with the expertise to grow more crops, which makes a lot of sense.

But whatever the Government decides to do, this crisis has underlined the need for a longer-term plan for responding to weather-related and other crises in the sector.

The announcement of improved emergency fodder schemes or supports for the sector is not sustainable.

In fact, the war in Ukraine has the potential to also rapidly turn into a bad news story for Irish agriculture with its impact on supplies of key commodities, highlighting what some might say is an unsustainable situation in Irish agriculture.

The reality as farmers know is more complex, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t need for some change.

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