PLANS to reduce cow numbers on family dairy farms under a measure agreed by the Department of Agriculture with the EU Commission will have no positive impact on water quality and brings into question the commitment of government to the crucial family farm sector.
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That’s according to ICMSA president Pat McCormack, speaking following a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture.

The ICMSA has warned that Mayo dairy farmers face up to a 33% herd reduction under the minister’s derogation policy.

Said Mr. McCormack: “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. 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 there is an unacceptable policy bias against family dairy farms and the dairy sector in general.

On the issue of the nitrates derogation, he said there was 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 last week, 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 1 each year.”

On the Dairy Vision group, the ICMSA very clearly stated to the minister that the target for agriculture must be realistic, and this meant a 22% reduction target while also addressing the necessary supports needed to make this reduction.

In addition, the 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 ICMSA also asked the minister to review the fodder scheme to include dairy farmers in the interests of fairness.

Concluding, Mr. McCormack said he was extremely concerned about the direct – or lack thereof – of current government policy.

With calving underway, dairy farmers are being urged to plan ahead to combat feed shortages.

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