The Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society (ICOS) dairy committee has elected Louth man Niall Matthews as its new chair.

Matthews is a dairy farmer from Tully, Co Louth, and is also chair of Lakeland Dairies Co-operative Society Ltd.

He farms in partnership with his wife Juana, with their son and two daughters, and holds an agricultural science degree from University College Dublin (UCD).

Matthews takes over from John O’Gorman in the role of ICOS dairy committee chair.

The ICOS dairy committee is comprised of 15 representatives from Ireland’s milk processing and purchasing co-operatives.

On his election as committee chair, Matthews said thanked O’Gorman for his “immense contribution to ICOS” and noted his “strong leadership” and contribution on behalf of the society during Food Vision dairy group deliberations.

Sectoral importance

The new chair said the dairy co-operative sector is “central to the success of Ireland’s export-led economy, with dairy exports valued at €6.8bn in 2022”.

“Notably, every €1 of exports of dairy goods contributes to a 90c spend within the Irish economy,” he said.

The dairy sector is experiencing increasing regulatory challenges, says Matthews. \ Donal O'Leary

Matthews said he will strive to embed a “farmer-led approach to the important issues facing our [dairy] industry ranging from income volatility, climate action and water quality, dairy-beef integration, animal health and welfare and supporting the next generation of dairy farmers”.

“The Irish dairy sector is experiencing increasing regulatory challenges throughout its supply chain. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest and most immediate challenges is the review of the nitrates derogation due later this year,” he said.

‘Fair’ approach

The new ICOS dairy committee chair called on European Union and Irish authorities to adopt a “fair and balanced approach” to the forthcoming nitrates review.

A nitrates review must take into account the contribution of Ireland's dairy sector to the economy, says Matthews. \ Donal O'Leary

He said this will allow an “opportunity for the recently introduced changes to Ireland’s nitrate action plan and lower fertiliser use by farmers to contribute to an improvement in water quality”.

“The review must consider the serious consequences a reduction in the maximum stocking rate combined with banding will have on farm income, an already overheated land rental market and the contribution of the dairy sector to the economy,” he added.

Read more

Farmer participation in ICOS survey ‘essential’

ICOS calls on farmers to complete survey on future intentions