Following the announcement last Friday (January 28) that a new stakeholder group has been set up to reduce emissions in the dairy sector, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has insisted that “protecting productivity growth” in the sector is its main priority.
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ICOS participated in the meeting on Friday between industry and farming representative bodies and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in which the formation of the new group was officially confirmed.

Speaking this afternoon (Monday, January 31), Jerry Long, the president of ICOS, said he welcomed the appointment of former Teagasc director Prof. Gerry Boyle as the chair of the new Food Vision Dairy Group, noting Boyle’s “in-depth understanding of the dairy sector and Irish farming”.

“The formation of the Food Vision Dairy Group is a key recommendation within the new agri-food strategy [Food Vision 2030] and we support the development of a new positive roadmap for the dairy sector.

“Our main priority entering these talks will be to protect productivity growth within the sector, so as to allow dairy farming to continue as a viable, profitable enterprise for farm families, while supporting new policies and approaches that will demonstrate absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in water quality,” Long highlighted.

He added: “Furthermore, we believe that it is absolutely essential to support family farm units and young farmers’ access to milk at a scale that is consistent with the family farm model in the context of managing future growth in a sustainable and responsible manner.

“ICOS is confident in the future of the Irish dairy sector to address its sustainability challenges.

Long pointed to the resilient nature of the dairy sector, saying it is forward thinking and adaptable to change.

“It is vital that this new process seeks to enhance Ireland’s reputation for sustainable pasture-based milk production, supports new market access opportunities and ultimately improves the living standards and wellbeing of dairy farmers, their families and the co-operative movement,” Long argued.

The Food Vision Dairy Group is expected to draft an initial report in March. The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has already said that this timeline is too short, and Long expressed sympathy with that view.

“ICOS shares concerns expressed at the meeting that the process cannot be rushed.

“ICOS will constructively engage in the process but recommendations must be properly planned and considered and their impact at farm and processing level fully though out and evaluated,” the ICOS president concluded.

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