ICMSA President, Pat McCormack, has accused the Minister of Agriculture of “selling out” local dairy farmers.
Speaking following a meeting with Minister Charlie McConalogue, Mr. McCormack said the Minister’s plan to reduce cow number on family dairy farms, under a measure agreed by the Department with the EU Commission, brought into question the Government’s commitment to family farms.
“While the Government claim to support family farms and the leaders of the two main parties stated that they do not support herd reduction, the reality is that family farms – the backbone of rural Ireland – are now facing herd reductions under a rule that will have little or no impact on water quality,” he said.
“Actions speak louder than words and the Minister’s policy is going to hammer families, many of whom have been dairy farming for generations. A dairy farmer with 40ha milking 112 cows under the current rules could end up having to reduce cows numbers by 29 under the deal agreed between the Minister and the EU Commission.
“The reality is that these family farms will be forced out of business, and we’ll see an industrialisation of dairy farming unless it is changed”.
Mr. McCormack told the Minister that there is an unacceptable policy bias against family dairy farms and the dairy sector in general.
He claimed there had been no consultation with ICMSA on the matter of reducing from 250kgs of N to 220Kgs of N and the vagueness in this agreement will not only have an impact on dairy farmers, but the wider dairy sector in terms of milk supply.
“We met with the EU Commission recently, and it is quite clear that the strategy of the Department was to target derogation farmers. This included, for example, the Department proposal to ban ploughing of grassland from June 1st each year,” he said.
On the Dairy Vision group, ICMSA very clearly stated to the Minister that the target for agriculture must be realistic, and this meant a 22 per cent reduction target while also addressing the necessary supports needed to make this reduction.
In addition, ICMSA asked the Minister to clarify the position in relation to TAMS grants for dairy farmers and he committed to a quick response quickly on this matter. The association also asked the Minister to review the Fodder Scheme to include dairy farmers in the interests of fairness and to remove the clear bias against dairy farmers in this scheme.
Concluding, Mr. McCormack said that he was “extremely concerned about the direct – or lack thereof – of current Government policy”.