Column: Farmers are the latest victims of ongoing bouts of extreme weather

Mary Cody

Reporter:

Mary Cody

Email:

mary.cody@kilkennypeople.ie

Column: Farmers are the latest victims of ongoing bouts of extreme weather

There is no disputing that there is something seriously askew with the weather these times.
Initially, I have to admit, I thought that we as a country had become a little too comfortable with our newly-discovered colour status weather warnings.
It seemed that every few days there was a yellow or orange warning - and if the truth be told I thought we were getting a little over zealous with issuing these warnings.
But then a few weather events made me see at first hand how difficult and devastating extreme weather can be. Firstly came Ophelia and then Storm Emma. Sadly there was loss of life during Storm Ophelia and lessons were learned.
The arrival of Storm Emma, which was preceded by the Beast from the East was met with uber preparation and a national warning by the Taoiseach to stay indoors. People heeded the warnings and advice and fortunately most people emerged unscathed from the storm.
In recent weeks it has emerged that there is a crisis regarding the welfare of livestock. A disturbing story is emerging from rural Ireland - farmers left without food for their animals. It is mid April and yet the fields are oddly empty - animals are being kept indoors and farmers have literally run out of fodder as there is little if any growth. No one predicted this and sadly our reaction has been slow.
Farmers have no living memory of a prolonged period of bad weather like we have witnessed in the past six months. Initially, there was a reticence from some farmers to say that they were in trouble and that their animals were starving. The larger community needs to row in and help out farmers in these challenging times. During the extreme weather of recent months farmers went far beyond what was expected in using their tractors and 4 x 4s to transport people across our country.
There is no doubt that the inclement weather has led to a real crisis in the agricultural sector and the Minister for Agriculture has intervened and fodder is now being imported. But the crisis is far from over.
What we have seen in the past few months is unprecedented extreme weather. This is concerning for us all but more so for those who rely on the seasons for their livelihood.
Furthermore there has been extreme psychological trauma endured by many members of the farming community who have had to contend with harrowing circumstances. Even if there is now feed the question remains what effects our changing climate will have on agriculture?
As an agricultural country we need to support our farmers to ensure this does not happen again. We need to assess how best to prepare in future so that this does not happen again. Lessons need to be learned and solutions proffered.
The effects of extreme weather can and do affect us all. During Storm Emma there was a mass exodus of people from urban centres and people heeded the warning to stay indoors. This is not a sustainable reaction. We react as if this is a freak event and if the past months have shown us anything; this is not the case.
A troubling pattern of extreme weather is emerging and we need to pay attention and take whatever measures we can to try and stave it off. We need to get real on the environmental damage that we are causing to the planet and the price we are paying for it.
It is most likely too little too late but to do nothing will end in relentless hardship.