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112-cow dairy farmer on 40ha could have to reduce cow numbers by 29

In this article, Pat McCormack, ICMSA president, explains how dairy farmers face up to 33% herd reduction under the DAFM’s derogation policy. He slams plans to reduce cow numbers on dairy farms.

Family dairy farmers have been sold out by the minister. The minister’s plan to reduce cow numbers on family dairy farms under a measure agreed by the department with the EU Commission will have no positive impact on water quality.

It brings into question the commitment of this government to our crucial family farm sector.

While the government claim that 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 will 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 cow 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 will see an industrialisation of dairy farming unless it is changed.

I told the minister that there is an unacceptable policy bias against family dairy farms and the dairy sector in general.

Derogation farmers
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On the issue of the Nitrates Derogation, there was no consultation with ICMSA on the matter of reducing from 250kgs of N to 220Kgs of N.

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 DAFM proposal to ban ploughing of grassland from June 1st, each year.

TAMS and FSS

On the Dairy Vision group, 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, 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.

ICMSA also asked the minister to review the FSS to include dairy farmers in the interests of fairness and to remove the clear bias against dairy farmers in this scheme.

I am extremely concerned about the direct – or lack thereof – of current government policy.

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