Local farmers facing ‘near total wipeout’

With no let up in the relentless rainfall predicted for at least another week, many local farmers are facing what has been described as “a near total wipeout.”

Westmeath IFA chair, Richard O’Brien, said this week that the situation locally is “very grim” while Michael Silke, who farms along the Shannon Callows, says many farmers are facing “a near total wipeout” for the remainder of the year.

“The weather is an issue for farmers everywhere”, said Mr O’Brien, “and many farming families are under severe financial strain at the moment as they are being forced to buy more fodder because they cannot let their animals out into the saturated fields.”

He pointed out that, due to the extremely wet weather conditions last year, there was already a shortage of fodder, and the current wet weather spell has “only added to the problems” being experienced by farmers in sourcing fodder.


With most of the tillage farmers in Westmeath being based in the north of the county, Mr O’Brien said farmers have been unable to access land to prepare for crop planting, and are “way behind schedule” at this stage.

“I grow corn myself at home, and at the moment I am two to three weeks behind, and that seems to be the situation everywhere,” he said.

Mr Silke, who farms on the Westmeath Galway border at Meelick, predicts that many farmer are facing “a near total wipeout” for the rest of this year due to the unprecedented rainfall.

His farm is located along the Shannon Callows, which takes in part of east Galway and Offaly and stretches to Athlone, and he says farmers in that region are “still grappling” with last year’s record rainfall levels, and are finding it “very difficult to cope”.

He says local farmers were “hoping against hope” that the worst of the rainfall was over, but as they head into another week of wet weather warnings, it has now become “an absolute disaster”.

Speaking of his situation, Mr Silke said he would normally have his animals out on grass by St Patrick’s Day, and also have all his fertiliser spread.

Instead, he is still faced with buying fodder for his housed animals and says there is “no way any fertiliser could be spread” on his land, which he says is “completely saturated”.

Mr Silke, a member of the lobby group, Save Our Shannon Organisations (SOSO), said the group “put a lot of effort into getting compensation” for farmers in the Shannon Callows area, but said the package they were offered by the department was “very piecemeal” and did not go far enough to address the severe hardships faced by Callows farmers.

In the wake of calls from IFA national president, Francie Gorman, in the last week for support for farming families, AIB has urged them to contact their local branches, where they an access a range of cashflow supports.


In a hard-hitting statement issued this week, the IFA president said farmers are under “huge pressure” at the moment, and have had “a horrendous time” since last autumn when they incurred big losses in the last harvest.

“Government intervention is critical and it cannot be delayed,” he said. The IFA deputy president, Alice Doyle, also called on banking institutions to “apply leniency” for farmers “battling to meet repayments”.

Speaking outside Tullamore Mart last week, European election candidate in the Midlands North West European constituency and Fianna Fail TD, Barry Cowen, called for “further flexibility” for farmers, including fast-tracking any payments, lenders showing leniency and more emergency funding and supports.

Deputy Cowen said he has written to the ministers for agriculture, finance and public expenditure to ask for emergency funding to be made available to farmers and food producers urgently.

“If elected as an MEP, I will champion and adverse weather emergency support fund for farmers,” Deputy Cowen said.