MUCH AS it is good news that the plight of farmers fighting the impact drought has had on their business made the headlines on news programmes across the UK this week, it should be tempered with the ambition that it is not simply seen as ‘farmers whingeing again’.

We have to make a case that comprehensively stands apart from appearing to darken government’s door with ‘begging bowl’ in hand ... again. There was a whiff of that in the BBC coverage of the problems that farmers are facing south of the Border, but there is much that government can do to help without actually dipping in to Treasury funds, though it should be noted that the Irish Government was quick off the mark to find cash to fund a fodder import scheme.

Deliveries of UK-sourced fodder have been arriving on Irish farms from April, mainly organised by Dairygold and backed by this fund. This, gallingly, means that UK farmers have been competing against subsidised buying power from across the Irish Sea for a commodity that is much required here – a portent of post-Brexit anomalies which may beset our farmers?

That there is a need for some action is not in question. If none is taken to bolster what is now a serious crisis, then the implications for the business well-being and the welfare of livestock are serious, and should not be under-estimated.

Already, the ship needs steadied. An avalanche of store and cull cattle, and poorly finished sheep is coming on to the market because of a lack of grazing, and the portents for the livestock farmers’ autumn ‘harvest’ are not good unless some stability is restored.

One really practical way for farmers to help themselves is for the straw choppers to stay out of play in combines across our arable acres and to allow the balers to move in. With our machinery rings operating in most of these crucial areas, there must be a role for them to play in co-ordinating this effort. Indeed, that is already underway and contracting businesses, too, have it within their gift to encourage more straw into bales.

But straw is only a belly filler and there also needs to be protein available to maintain milk yield and growth rates. It was commendable that the Scotch whisky industry were well represented in the stakeholder meeting held by NFUS this week, as they hold the key to redirecting products like draff and pot ale syrup back into the animal food chain, rather than to produce power.

Crop failures elsewhere in Europe should have highlighted to the malting and distilling trade that there is much to be gained from encouraging home-grown production. There would be no better way to do that than by price and if they can then help turn their basic commodity back into animal feed, rather than for the digester, then all to the good.