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HomeDairyExit scheme for dairy farmers ‘the beginning of the end’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Exit scheme for dairy farmers ‘the beginning of the end’

Macra has reacted to news that the Department of Agriculture, Food is seeking submissions on an exit scheme for dairy farmers.

It warns that, if enacted, the scheme would fundamentally damage dairy farming for all active farmers, make once productive farmland unproductive, and take away the opportunity for young dairy farmers to farm.

In an industry where the average age in 2020 was 57, this move, in Macra’s view, heralds “the beginning of the end” for family farms in Ireland.

The proposed exit scheme does not represent value for money for neither taxpayers nor active farmers, according to the organisation’s newly appointed president, Elaine Houlihan.

She warns that it will be “the kiss of death” for generational renewal and the long-term sustainability of the dairy industry.

The proposed measure is an attack on every parish and community of rural Ireland, in the words of Macra.

“The measure will do nothing but to further inflate the land market and force further pressures on farmers,” Elaine added.

The group understands that the DAFM will issue a consultation template on an exit scheme this week as part of the Dairy Food Vision Committee.

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Macra has “outrightly rejected” the exit/reduction measure previously contained in the Dairy Food Vision final report.

The Macra president said, “We need to flip the approach to emission reduction on its head”.

“A succession scheme can achieve far better results than an exit scheme, delivering value for money and greater policy cohesion in terms of generational renewal.”

What is Macra proposing?

Macra’s succession scheme incorporates a step-back mechanism for farmers that wish to exit dairying coupled with an entrance scheme for young farmers who will adopt a range of climate mitigation measures.

This, it believes, represents value for money and initiates real positive change for climate emission reduction and the positioning of Irish dairy farming into the future.

“An industry without youth is a dying industry, an exit scheme without a succession scheme is locking youth out and preventing sustainable development of the sector.”

“A culling system essentially wipes out the investments that active farmers have made in their processing industry over the last number of years.”

“What is the value in taxpayer money for a scheme that is going to retiring farmers who will not be reinvesting in the sector as opposed to a succession scheme that will be reinvested by young farmers creating a multiplier effect through the economy.

She pointed to research that concludes that farmer characteristics including age and innovativeness of the farmer impact the decision to adopt smart farming or precision agriculture technologies that reduce climate emissions.

“Now is the time to invest in young farmers and pursue positive schemes that will deliver on multiple objectives from climate change to generational renewal that will enhance Irish dairy farming’s position as a world leader in sustainability”, Houlihan concluded.

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