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The challenge posed by Covid-19 requires a collective effort, says Limerick IFA chairman Shay Galvin

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

The challenge posed by Covid-19 requires a collective effort, says Limerick IFA chairman Shay Galvin

THE CHALLENGE posed by Covid-19 requires a collective effort, says Limerick IFA chairman Shay Galvin.

As a national association with over 940 branches and 70,000 members, he says IFA is working tirelessly on behalf of our members, the agri-food sector and the general public by keeping supply chains operational and food on the table.

Mr Galvin says actions taken by IFA to support their members include:

n Establishment of a dedicated farmer specific Covid-19 Hub, with up-to-date information on topics such as health and safety, banking and tax and social welfare

n Distribution of our “Plan B” document, a resource pack with guidance for farmers on how to prepare in the event of them becoming incapacitated.

n Issuing health and safety guidelines, particularly around farm safety during this time.

n Establishment of regional and county WhatsApp groups for speedy dissemination of factual information.

n Appointment of dedicated hotlines to deal with the most common FAQs of members.

n Check-in calls with all members, beginning with those who are cocooning and most vulnerable.

As one of the largest lobbying organisations in the country we are also working to ensure that Government puts in place much needed supports for the sector, he says.

Mr Galvin says IFA has put a detailed set of proposals to the Government and the EU Commission in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Directly lobbied each member of cabinet, the Taoiseach, opposition leaders and spokespeople, MEPs and local politicians.

Sought a dedicated low-cost loan scheme for farmers.

Participated in a meeting of European farm leaders with the EU Commissioner through the European farmers’ umbrella body COPA.

Successfully ensured that farmers who have incurred a substantial loss of income as a result of restrictions are eligible for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 per week.

Delivered commitments from DAFM that flexibility will be given on requirements for many farm schemes.

Mr Galvin said IFA has joined forces with other organisations and associations on initiatives that benefit its members and the wider community.

“We are a leading member of the Government’s Community Call initiative which brings together state and voluntary resources to combat the effects of Covid-19. Each local authority has a dedicated helpline and IFA is part of the official community support network in each local authority.

“We worked with FBD to establish a fund for farmers unable to carry out farm work due to Covid-19, a €500 Farm Relief Service voucher will be provided to assist in keeping farms operational during this busy period.

“Mental Health Ireland, IFA and Teagasc have partnered to co-host and co-deliver information and resources for farmers during the month of April. Entitled ‘Farming Resilience’ the aim is to support farmers and their families through the challenges being posed by Covid-19. The service will look at some practical evidence-based ways to support personal and business resilience,” said Mr Galvin.

The Croom man says with children off school at present and with some older ones helping out on farms, “We are seeing the very best of the Irish farm family model at work during this crisis to keep the food supply chain moving”.

However, this also increases the need for total vigilance regarding farm safety said Mr Galvin, a father of young children.

“A farm can be a wonderful place for children, where independence and responsibility are fostered. The Irish family farm is at the centre of our food supply chain, the security of which has never been more important.

“However, it can also be a dangerous place where the unthinkable can happen in a matter of seconds. Now is a good time to review your farm safety and ask there a safer way?

“Child safety is essential. Talk to your child about safety on the farm. Ensure minor injuries are avoided at this time. When the health service is challenged, it is particularly important to avoid any injuries on the farm.

“With children off school due to the coronavirus, this is a high-risk time on Irish farms. Use these following points to protect children on the farm and from the coronavirus,” said Mr Galvin.

Restricted movements means avoiding contact with other children, this is essential at this time.

Have a safe and secure area for children to play.

Where children are not in a secure play area, a high level of adult supervision must be provided.

Children must not be supervised by their grandparents at this time. People who are 60 years of age and people over 75 are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

With increased machinery activity on farms keep children away from dangerous places.

Keep children away from dangerous animals, especially cows with calves.

Do not allow children under 14 to operate tractors or self-propelled machines.

When children have to be carried in the tractor cab, it must be fitted with a properly designed and fitted passenger seat with seat belts.