President of the ICMSA, Pat McCormack made the comments following a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue today (Friday, January 28).
McCormack said that the minister and government had to realise that such a policy “ran the risk of irreparable damage to the main driver of Ireland’s rural economy”.
The association has claimed that Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the minister decided to “specifically target dairy farming”, the one sector of Irish farming that is economically viable, and they want to the minister to provide answers.
Climate efficiency of dairy farming
The ICMSA stated that the Irish dairy sector is an indigenous sector that was widely accepted as amongst the most climate efficient and technically competent in the world, as well as being the economic, social and communal bedrock of rural Ireland.
The ICMSA president has demanded to know why other sectors, such as aviation, are not facing the same scrutiny.
Pointing out that the majority of family dairy farms milk less than 80 cows, Pat McCormack said that the minister’s assurances that there will be opportunities for new entrants and existing farmer-suppliers to improve their viability was “unconvincing”.
“If we know one thing from history, it is that that the overall trend always trumps individual cases,” McCormack said.
“If the minister announces restrictions on our dairy sector as state policy, then every decision after that starts from the negative.
“All these temporary arrangements become ‘bedded down’ and become permanent practice. Effectively, the most dynamic farming and agri-food sector we have, will be driven up a cul-de-sac from which we will never be able to reverse,” he continued.
The farming representative said that neither the ICMSA, nor farmers in general, were slow to play their part in tackling climate change.
“We’re the only sector that already has an emissions-lowering plan that’s ‘up and going’,” McCormack continued.
The Teagasc marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) curve and new technologies are already showing how agriculture can meet its climate commitments – and new technologies will accelerate that progress, according to the ICMSA.
“The government ignored the further potential in that area in the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] Strategic Plan they submitted, and will now compound that mistake by effectively proposing caps on our most valuable production,” McCormack added.
The farm association also said that the end of March timeframe proposed by the minister to make decisions on this matter is unrealistic.
“The government is about to make a decision that will damage the single most important positive economic activity in most rural areas of Ireland. Can we not at least give ourselves the time necessary to look at the question in an intelligent and logical way?” stressed McCormack.
“The Irish government seems determined to make a historically wrong decision anyway, but why we have to make it within just eight weeks is beyond me and will be beyond every other farmer concerned,” he concluded.