Pat Murphy, Chairman of IFA’s Project Team on flooding and Tim Cullinan assess flooding on the Shannon in Offaly in September 2020.

Concerns over administration of Callows Flood Scheme

Local Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has written to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue on behalf of local farmers who have not been issued with a letter for inclusion in the Shannon Callows Flood Scheme despite being impacted by recent flooding.

Deputy Cowen said: "Due to the very challenging weather conditions this summer, some farmers were unable to save fodder crops for this coming winter and this has been compounded by the continuing wet conditions throughout the Autumn period. This has left affected farmers in a serious situation requiring them to purchase additional fodder to maintain animal health and welfare over the winter months and I very much welcome a scheme announced recently to assist farmers in this situation.

“Minister Charlie McConalogue is making available funding of over €800,000 to farmers who have been affected by fodder loss due to flooding in the region and I understand the Department of Agriculture has been in contact with a number of affected farmers.

“However, I have been advised that some farmers were not issued with a letter for inclusion in the scheme, when this was queried with the Department they were informed that the satellite didn’t pick up on flooding on their lands. Some had crop on the land which was completely flooded underneath and wasn’t possible to harvest. I understand that neighbours with adjoining lands have been issued with the form as it was grazed lands and flooding was visible.

"It is imperative that farmers affected be accommodated under the scheme without delay. I have asked Minister McConalogue to investigate this matter and revert to my office at his earliest opportunity,” he said.

Meanwhile, IFA President Tim Cullinan has called on Minister Charlie McConalogue to extend the application deadline for the Shannon Callows Flood Scheme and ensure all impacted farmers can apply.

As it stands, impacted farmers had until midnight on Monday last to get their applications in, but not all farmers have been contacted by the Department or received their Expression of Interest forms.

“We are also hearing there may have been some IT issues where not all impacted sites were correctly identified. At a minimum, the Department need to push out the deadline so everybody can apply. We have raised the issues with the Department but there has been no resolution yet. A degree of pragmatism and fairness needs to apply here,” he said.

“It’s important that all impacted farmers get access to this scheme, and that the funding is released as soon as possible and that the conditions to apply are not too onerous,” he said.

“In the longer term, an agency must be established which would include local farmers to manage the River Shannon to rectify the problems. This must be established without delay and cannot be put on the long finger anymore,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan has confirmed to Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan that he aims to bring forward a ‘final proposal’ dealing with issues related to the River Shannon Management Agency Bill 2020 early in the new year.

The minister provided the information to Deputy Nolan after she raised the matter as a priority oral question in the Dáil.

“Farmers and landowners need certainty on this matter and that is why I welcome, at long last, some kind of indication about when we will finally see a concrete legislative proposal with respect to a Bill that has been on the government priority list for the last three years,” said Deputy Nolan.

“I understand the issue is complex, and that as the minister has indicated the issues are closely intertwined with other uses of the river such as navigation, dam safety and electricity generation, but the fact remains we need urgent action to prevent ongoing flooding and destruction that comes with it.”