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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 5 December, 2019
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Day 2: Tillage farmers sleep overnight at the Department of Agriculture building

Some farmers are talking about taking their kids out of college due to the bad harvest.

Some farmers are talking about having to take their kids out of college, because they couldn’t pay fees or accommodation.

A GROUP OF grain farmers slept overnight at the Department of Agriculture on Kildare Street in Dublin in protest over the amount of compensation due to them after a disastrous harvest.

There were angry scenes yesterday, with the gardaí called in, as farmers sought the full details of the financial supports.

President of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Joe Healy told TheJournal.ie today that during negotiations, the organisation was assured the payout limit would be €15,000 per farmer. This is the maximum allowed under EU rules.

20170706_111734_resized Farmers offloading bails of hay at the Department of Agriculture. Source: IFA

This has been refuted by sources within the department who said that figure was never on the table and no figure was signed off on.

Healy, who originally welcomed the announcement of the scheme, but feared it was too restrictive, said he was surprised to discover a limit of €5,000 per farmer was now being proposed, an amount he told TheJournal.ie is totally unacceptable.

The farmers are now demanding an urgent meeting with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.

A recent IFA survey found that around 250 tillage farmers suffered losses due to the weather, with farmers in Cork reported to be hit particularly badly, said Healy.

Today, bails of hay were delivered to the Department of Agriculture, with farmers refusing to leave until they get a meeting with the minister.

IMG_8688 Source: Christina Finn

Liam Dunne, a farmer from Kildare told TheJournal.ie farmers are “extremely unhappy”.

He said €5,000 is not going to help a farmer who has suffered a €60,000 loss, stating that some farmers have suffered more than others.

“We suspect it could be less than 200 farmers, which is not a huge number of farmers, but for the ones involved the losses have been very serious. Some of them are talking about having to take kids out of college, because they couldn’t pay fees or accommodation,” said Dunne, adding:

I am sure a lot of arrangements were made within families to make sure that didn’t happen, but the hardships have been severe.
Some had cattle, so they sold them off to try to make up the shortfall, while some of them would have made special arrangements with merchants or refinanced machinery.

grain protest4 (1) Tillage farmers unload straw bales outside the Department of Agriculture. Source: Finbarr O'Rourke

Dunne explained the loss had to made up somewhere, otherwise farmers would not have the capital to grow their crop for the next year.

“They need more than just a leg up of €5,000,” he added.

“We have demanded a meeting and that the maximum limits are up for discussion at that meeting. They [the department] have agreed to the meeting, but not to discuss the maximum limit. So we stay,” said Healy.

grain protest6 (1) Gardai speak with IFA President Joe Healy after the unloading of straw bales outside the Department of Agriculture. Source: Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine confirmed that it received a request from the IFA for a meeting to discuss a proposed crop compensation fund for tillage farmers affected by the severe weather events of September 2016.

It continued:

The Department are happy to facilitate this meeting as soon as possible.
Notwithstanding approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and reform for the outline of a crop loss compensation scheme, the final terms and conditions and application process for such a scheme are yet to be finalised and published by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine.

“The minister needs to engage with us, we stayed here last night and we are prepared to stay here tonight and we now have some softer bedding to do it,” said Dunne, leaning up against a bail of straw.

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