Longer wet winter leaves local farmers struggling

THE constant wet weather has intensified the pressure on Fermanagh’s desperate farmers whose livelihoods have been impacted as well as their mental health.
April is normally seen as a month that marks a turning point in the farming calendar, but the weather in recent weeks has shown no signs of turning.
The persistent rain has left many farmers unable to move their livestock, while dairy farmers have had to keep their cows in barns longer than usual, and are running out of food.
Crops have also been badly affected as much of the spring planting has not been finished because many fields are too wet for tractors or machines to work on them.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union president and Fermanagh farmer, David Brown, says the challenges now being faced are unprecedented, with farmers caught in a perfect storm of margin pressures, high feed input costs, and limited supplies of both forage and bedding materials.
“We are well used to coping with wet weather, but the present situation is beyond anything that could have been planned for,” Mr Brown from Florencecourt said.
“The rain is relentless, and frustration is now giving way to despair, as the realities of a potentially bad grazing season and harvest come on top of concerns about prices not covering the cost of production.
“This is as serious a situation as most farmers can remember – and it is affecting every sector of agriculture. It is also not unique to Northern Ireland with farmers across these islands struggling with the poor conditions. There is no doubt this weather is now threatening domestic food production.”
Sinn Féin councillor and local farmer, Sheamus Greene, has also raised these concerns with Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir.
“The inaction of the Minister of Agriculture is deafening when you contrast this to how farmers are treated south of the border,” Mr Greene said.
“I requested that the Minister introduce a scheme to provide some help to farmers who are experiencing severe financial stress due to lack of fodder and the unseasonal bad weather where farmers are forced to continue to house cattle.
“Mr Muir needs to follow his counterpart in the Irish Republic who introduced a €53 million package over a week ago.”
Mr Brown believed that the pressure on farmers remains constant, and for many their mental health is seriously at risk.
“Our greatest concern is around the mental toll this is taking on farmers,” Mr Brown said.
“This is becoming a crisis for the industry, but we need to prevent it from becoming a mental health crisis for farming families.”

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