A new fodder transport scheme will provide a financial subsidy towards the cost of transporting winter animal feed such as hay, silage and straw over long distances to livestock farmers in the west and northwest.

The scheme is in response to a fodder crisis in those areas that was caused by wet weather throughout the late summer and autumn. 

The transport subsidy will be €8 and €12 euro per bale of feed transported over distances in excess of 100km to farms where a significant shortage of feed has been verified by a recognised agricultural adviser. 

Farmers will still pay the cost of the fodder in the normal way.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that a key issue to resolve was the cost of transporting fodder between those areas where it was plentiful and those where it was scarce.

He said that fodder remains available across the country but he is conscious of the significant additional cost to farmers where fodder has to be transported over significant distance to areas where it is most needed. 

He also said that, since fodder is traded between farms on a regular basis, it is essential that the new support measure should be targeted at those who most need it and would not impact on the normal functioning of the market for fodder.

Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue warned the announcement could see prices accelerate as demand for fodder increases.

Deputy McConalogue criticised the stand-alone measure, claiming that farmers would pay the price.

"I am calling on Minister Creed to establish a meal voucher scheme as a matter of urgency, before the fodder crisis spirals out of control, leaving many family farms in a very precarious situation", he said.