ICMSA, Pat McCormack, outlines why he proposes a cap on the dairy sector, following a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine.
My association cannot accept any proposal that will place an arbitrary cap on the sustainable, productive capacity of Irish family dairy farms.
The minister and the whole government have to realise that such a policy ran the risk of irreparable damage to the main driver of Ireland’s rural economy.
The minister will have to answer why he and his department have decided to specifically target dairy farming, the one sector of Irish farming that is economically viable.
It was 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.
Cap on dairy sector
I also demand to know why other sectors, such as aviation, appear to have a licence to continue to expand without consequence.
The majority of family dairy farms milk fewer than 80 cows. 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 the overall trend always trumps individual cases.
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.
Neither ICMSA nor farmers, in general, were slow to play their part in combatting climate change.
That’s just not true and adds insult to injury. We are the only sector that already has an emissions lowering plan that’s ‘up and going’.
The Teagasc MACC curve and new technologies are already showing how agriculture can meet its climate commitments – and new technologies will accelerate that progress.
The government ignored the further potential in that area in the CAP Strategic Plan they submitted. It will now compound that mistake by effectively proposing caps on our most valuable production.
The end of March timeframe the minister proposes to make decisions on this matter is utterly 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?
The Irish government seems determined to make a historically wrong decision anyway.
Why we have to make it within just eight weeks is beyond me and will be beyond every other farmer concerned.