A one-off meal subsidy would be more beneficial for farmers in the west and northwest dealing with a shortage of fodder than the current transport assistance, a TD has said.

Speaking in the Dáil this Thursday, Deputy Marian Harkin said the fodder transport scheme is not beneficial for these farmers, as fodder is still available locally.

“Many farmers in the west and northwest are running short of fodder and there is a looming shortage of grass.

“The transport subsidy that has been put in place will be of little benefit to farmers in Sligo, Leitrim, south Donegal and north Roscommon, because it only covers the transport of fodder for distances of more than 75km.

“There are still some fodder bales available, for more than €50 per bale in some places, but the distance that farmers in these counties have to travel to access them is generally not greater than 75km.

“Furthermore, farmers and farming experts will tell you that animals, once they have tasted fresh grass, have no taste for hay or silage.

“When there is a shortage of grass at this time of the year, meal is far more beneficial to them than stored fodder,” she said.

‘Financial difference’

Addressing Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Deputy Harkin added that a one-off subsidy on the cost of meal would make more of a difference to farmers.

“If you're buying meal as a small farmer right now, you will pay around €450/t for it.

“If there was a one-off subsidy on the first 5t or even on the first 2t of meal, it would make an immediate financial difference to farmers, especially to hill and suckler farmers. I'd ask you, Minister, to look at that.

“I think the cost of such a scheme would not be substantial and it would benefit many farmers who will not derive any benefit from the fodder transport scheme,” she said.