Flooding on numerous holdings in the Shannon Callows was missed by the satellites feeding into the Department of Agriculture’s area monitoring system, farmers in the area have claimed.

Around 277 landowners in the callows have been contacted by the Department with a view to getting compensation for the summer flooding, but local activists believe the number impacted could top 450.

“The Department has already cleared 230 farmers for payment, but there’s double that number on the Shannon alone from Athlone to Meelick. If you go up tributaries like the Suck, you’re talking a lot more,” said Michael Silke of Save Our Shannon Organisation (SOSO).

Local frustration

While welcoming the compensation package that has been put in place for landowners in the area, Silke said the exclusion and underpayment of farmers has caused anger and frustration locally.

“Farmers who qualified for compensation got letters from the Department. But we have sent the Department the names of 80 landowners, whose lands were flooded, and they didn’t get letters,” Silke said.

Michael Silke. \ Odhran Ducie

The Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue explained in the Dáil last week that payments of €325/ha to a maximum of 15ha has been allocated under the compensation package. The fund is capped at €800,000.

“Using satellite monitoring to identify those most impacted represents the most appropriate mechanism to verify the baseline criteria required to establish eligibility for the scheme, and to ensure much-needed funds are received by farmers in a prompt manner,” Minister McConalogue said in reply to a question from Independent TD Carol Nolan.

“Imagery captured by the Copernicus satellite is publicly available and provides a transparent record of flooding in the Shannon Callows SAC, between 2 July 2023 and the 29 September 2023,” he added.

However, not all the flooded land was captured by Copernicus, farmers in the callows maintained. Silke said he was paid compensation on just 4ha of flooded callows, despite 30ha being under water since July.

The Galway farmer maintained that the satellite must have been unable to see the flooding due to the silage crop in the field.

Farm adviser Ian Kenny said he has a number of clients farming in the callows. While some landowners have been contacted by the Department regarding compensation, neighbouring farmers with flooded ground have not heard anything.

While the compensation being offered will not cover all of the losses suffered by farmers, it will help, said Silke, who added that he has paid €40,000 for additional fodder this year.

“We usually bring 500 bales [of silage] out of the callows, and then we have the after-grass; but this year, we got nothing. The crop rotted in the floods,” he said.

“I should have been eligible for €4,875, but all I got was €1,352,” Silke explained.

Silke described the non-payment and underpayment of farmers impacted by the Shannon floods as “unjust and unfair”.

“It defies logic that we had two feet of water on our land, but the satellite couldn’t pick it up. Is the satellite fit for purpose?” Silke asked.