In this article, the president of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, expresses why he believes the government’s policy on farm destocking is a three-card trick.
I am flatly contradicting the statements of government ministers who continue to maintain that compulsory destocking of family farms need not happen and is not being sought.
So far from that being the case, such compulsory destocking has already begun. Just because it is happening via the amended Nitrates Regulations does not make it any less of a harmful fact.
There are family farms that will have to destock at the start of 2023 and may have to further destock in 2024 due to policies this government has agreed.
The net effect will be the removal of our family farm model and its replacement with the industrial scale of farm we see elsewhere.
This policy is being driven by the changes introduced under the Nitrates Regulations, which were proposed and designed by our own government and cannot be blamed on the EU.
Politicians –local and national – seemed completely unaware of the enormous effects the changes would have on that very cohort of full-time commercial dairy family farms who, we were constantly assured, policy was attempting to protect.
I call on the government to return to the EU and renegotiate the Nitrates Derogation.
The changes would ‘take out’ the level of farms who simply did not have the resources available to them to take up any of the so-called ‘diversification options.’
I am citing the example of a family farm of 30ha that, as of this year, can milk up to 84 cows.
With cow banding and with the potential for the maximum N level per hectare to fall from 250 to 220kgs, that very same family farm may only be allowed have 62 cows in 2024.
That reduction of 22 cows effectively wipes out the economic sustainability of this farm.
Replicated through the neighbouring and similar farms, it undermines the viability of the wider rural community.
Policy changes without consultation
I am accusing the government of introducing massive policy changes without consultation and am citing the amended nitrates rates as an example.
The government policy amounted to a ‘three card trick’ where farming communities were distracted and told to focus on one highly visible area while ruinous policy changes were smuggled past without any worthwhile consultation or analysis.
We have always said that farmers are happy and willing to play our role in this historic drive to sustainability.
However, we seem to be the only element that remembers that there was meant to be room for economic sustainability as well.
The government seems to have decided that there is no need to consult or work with our farming communities and that this slippery tactic of distraction and elimination will work.
It is up to our rural representatives to insist that our farming communities get at least the same level of consultation and consideration that the government seems very happy to give everyone else.
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