The final report of the Food Vision dairy group delivered to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been met with a cold response from the farmer organisations which sat in the group.

The farming stakeholders expressed particular concerns around the report’s recommendation that the Minister open a voluntary scheme allowing for compensation to be paid out when dairy cow numbers are reduced or where a dairy farmer exits the sector completely.

A recommended cut in the dairy sector’s chemical nitrogen usage of 27% to 30% by 2030 was also cited as being particularly problematic for farm organisations.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) and Macra have all criticised the report.


The reduction and exit scheme was rejected by Macra outright, while the IFA reserved its position on the measure and the ICMSA reserved its position on the report as a whole.

The main issues which the report did not address, according to the group participants who spoke with the Irish Farmers Journal, concern the sourcing of funds and the lack of information on the payment rates farmers would receive for implementing the measures.

Farm groups also cited concerns that the reduction and exit scheme could follow a forced reduction in derogation stocking rates.

The report had been due in June, under the initial guidance provided to the group by Minister McConalogue.

Pat McCormack – ICMSA

There has been no indication of how the measures will be funded, warned ICMSA president Pat McCormack. \ Philip Doyle

“The issue is where the funding is going to come from and to what degree land will be sterilised. We need new funding, not just existing funding to be moved around.

“The Government’s commitment to dairy farmers in the last [few years] has been quite poor. When you look at the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) and the Fodder Support Scheme, some farmers have been excluded from entry.

“We are disappointed. Disappointed in how the whole group turned out. The report was produced without meaningful discussion on the real measures that went over the Minister.”

Stephen Arthur – IFA dairy chair

IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur was disappointed that the report's final text was not shown to stakeholders before going to the Minister. / Ramona Farrelly

“There is no pathway on funding this, there is no mention of money in it.

“It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to see the final report, especially after putting in reams of paper in contributions.

“There is still so much to clear up, so many more details to come on how these schemes are going to actually work. Will the extensive farmers at 1.5LU/ha and only spreading 90kg/ha be hit just as much as the intensive lads?”

John Keane - Macra national president

Macra president John Keane said the dairy cow reduction and exit scheme will lead to land sterilisation. \ Philip Doyle

“The proposed measure is an attack on every corner and community of rural Ireland. The measure will do nothing but to further inflate the land market and force further pressures on farmers.

“The measure does nothing to support generational renewal, which is the biggest threat to sustainability on farms. Sterilising land by not allowing breeding ruminants to be on these farms is just a non-runner for Macra and its members.”

Keane reasoned that the loss of 100,000 cows with a gross output of €2,500/head would take €1bn out of circulation in rural communities.

“Research shows that for every €1 in income to a farmer, it generates between €3 and €4 in the rural economy. Essentially, what is being proposed here is to remove almost €1bn from the rural economy annually,” he claimed.

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