Farm schemes to be fast tracked - Simon CoveneyFriday 19 April 2013 13.54
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said his department will try to fast track schemes that were due to be paid in spring to try to help farmers.
The schemes include the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said there is what he described as a real crisis for many farmers at the moment due to the wettest and worst summer on record last year, which was followed by a very long and very wet winter.
He said it had resulted in a shortage of grass growing, and there was a lot of stress among the farming community.
Mr Coveney said that although prices were strong for milk and beef, in particular, farmers are really worried about how they were going to feed their cattle.
The IFA and ICMSA have demanded emergency funding to be made available to those farmers who are worst affected.
The minister said that instruction had gone out to farm inspectors so that they do their work in a way that is more flexible and understanding of farmers who are particularly stressed at the moment.
He said they are also working with co-ops and banks.
Mr Coveney said that some co-ops were providing interest-free credit and others were extending much more credit than they would normally extend to their members.
He said if they were not he wanted to hear about it.
A small crisis fund will be used in cases of extreme animal welfare concerns, the minister added.
Minister Coveney said if there were animals starving they will intervene and make sure they get fed.
"They need to talk to their Teagasc advisers in particular. But they also need to talk to their co-ops and their feed merchants, and directly to my department. If they are not getting fair treatment from banks I want to hear about it."
IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey has said they need clarity on what the minister is going to do to address the fodder crisis.
He said the minister has talked about an emergency fund, but gave no details of how or where to apply to it or how much is in it.
Mr Downey said farmers need the minister to bring forward payments that are due later in the year, because cash is what is needed to purchase feed.
He said stress levels farmers are now suffering are enough to break them.