During an exchange in the Dáil yesterday afternoon, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, indicated that there is a helpline for farmers to call in order to have their current situation considered for a slurry spreading extension.
“This tends to come up on an annual basis and it has been extended in the past where there were exceptional conditions,” he said.
"It remains the case that if a slurry tank is filled, the farmer may seek leave to empty it, and it will be decided on case-by-case."
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said that farmers who contact this helpline must be aided in their efforts to get out enough of slurry to tide them over until the closed period ends.
“Minister Doyle mentioned that this is a recurring theme at this time of year. And he is right. It is just further proof that calendar farming doesn’t work.”
“But both departments must recognise the seriousness of the situation. Many farmers, particularly in the west of Ireland, need to get slurry out or they won’t be able to make it through the closed period,” he added.
Fitzmaurice noted that rain has been consistent since August - the past two months have had double the amount of rainfall in some Met Eireann stations compared to 2018.
“The department continues to cite the fact that research shows that nutrient loss is twice as likely during the closed period as at any other time of the year – which will then have an adverse impact on water quality.”
“Well if the ministers ever bothered to look up the rainfall accumulation statistics for the west of Ireland, they would know that farmers couldn’t spread slurry here in the past two months.
“The slurry would have ended up in rivers and streams and that is not what they want to happen.
He said that there are indications that drier spells are expected next week, which may give farmers an opportunity to get enough slurry out to tide them over until the middle of January.
“Surely, an extension could be looked at in that regard,” Fitzmaurice said.
Continuing, Fitzmaurice said: “This will turn into a welfare issue on some farms in the coming weeks.
It is possible that some areas could experience a relatively dry and cold November, which would provide much better conditions for spreading slurry than the past two months have, he added.
“And before they turn to this excuse, farmers know it is best to spread slurry in the spring – and the majority do. But most farms also need to spread slurry later in the year.
“Some farms may have housed cattle early; some farmers may have more cattle than they expected to due to the beef protests, but these farmers need to be looked after by the Department,” Fitzmaurice concluded.