A business case put forward by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) and the Farm Relief Service (FRS) for the provision of 500 dairy worker permits for 2023 is under consideration.

The proposal, which has the backing of Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon TD, has been shared with the Department of Enterprise.

Minister Heydon has met with Minister of State for Employment Damien English TD to outline why the permits are necessary.

The request from the dairy sector comes about following prolonged labour shortages.

The dairy sector is seeking 500 additional work permits for 2023.

In November 2021, Minister English announced a suite of additional work permit quotas in response to labour shortages in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

A quota of permits for 100 dairy farm operatives was part of the package. However, as of September, this 100-permit quota had been filled.

The ICMSA and FRS business case for additional permits submitted to the Department of Agriculture describes the labour supply shortages within the dairy sector despite extensive advertising of roles.

Widespread issue

Minister Heydon is understood to have highlighted that labour supply for the dairy sector is not just an issue at calving time, but that the problem is now more widespread throughout the year, despite efforts to address the shortages. This, he said, includes substantial investment in labour-saving automation.

The minister, who has responsibility for farm safety within the Department of Agriculture, told the Irish Farmers Journal: "Balancing workload with labour supply is critical to addressing work-life balance for farmers.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon TD. \ Philip Doyle

“A shortage of labour can cause severe stress and other issues which put farmers at greater risk of a farm safety incident. Minister English was supportive of the case for additional permits, and we will work to deliver these before the main calving period begins."