Sligo farmers were quick off the mark with questions and opinions for Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue at the county's IFA AGM on Monday night.

The start of the meeting was punctuated by concerns over the climate bill and possible repercussions for agriculture, with the Minister pointing to a number of measures including the introduction of the new agri-environment pilot that’s being called REPS II (Rural Environment Protection Scheme).

However, this didn’t cut the mustard with some farmers.

One in particular informed the Minister: “I wouldn’t insult REPS to call it a REPS scheme [sic], because I was in REPS for 20 years and it was a wonderful scheme and people were getting money at the end of it.

“I would appeal to you to look seriously at putting a proper REPS scheme [sic] in place up to the tune of at least €10,000 and give some recognition to people with the designated land.

Payment rates

The Minister pointed out that the average payment under the agri-environment pilot was expected to be €4,700 and when this payment was added to existing payments, such as ANC, farmers could see a payment figure of up to €800/ha on the first 10 hectares.

However, another farmer, John Graham, followed up the Minister’s remarks, calling his calculations “nonsense”, especially when it took the administrative costs involved from the farmer’s side.

Graham also highlighted concerns over TB in the Sligo area and said the new motorway had caused serious issues, citing the fact he’d lost 20% of his milking herd to TB for which the compensation was “pathetic".

The Minister commiserated with Graham over the loss of his animals and said the Department will continue to take a science-based approach to tackling TB.

Veterinary regulations

Aurivo chair Raymond Barlow was also present and he raised concerns about new veterinary legislation that will require farmers to have a prescription in order to buy wormers.

He said the legislation, which comes into effect next year, could significantly raise costs for farmers.

The Minister acknowledged the concerns and said he was trying to find a solution that adhered to the legislation, while ensuring competition in the marketplace.

Fair deal

IFA president Tim Cullinan raised concerns over changes to the fair deal scheme and asked the Minister for a date as to when it would be introduced.

His concerns were echoed by Sligo IFA chair Kathleen Henry, who said that many farm families had suffered as a result of repeated delays to the scheme.

Minister McConalogue said the Taoiseach Micheál Martin is committed to the changes and that he believes they are still due to come into effect this summer.