Dutch government accelerates dairy cow cull
The Netherlands has decided to accept all applicants to its oversubscribed dairy herd reduction scheme, culling more than 30,000 cows in the coming weeks.

In a letter to Parliament this week, Dutch Agriculture Minister Martijn van Dam said he was accepting all applications to the first tranche of the scheme designed to curb phosphate emissions by reducing the size of Europe's third-largest dairy herd.

Choosing applicants at random would be detrimental to the effectiveness of the measure

The scheme offers a €300/cow slaughter premium and the government was planning to remove 40,000 cows through successive rounds of applications from late February to May. With 497 farms already applying to have 31,500 cows slaughtered in the first round last week, the minister has decided to accept all applications, arguing that "choosing applicants at random would be detrimental to the effectiveness of the measure". As a result, he has cancelled the next rounds, with the possibility of further applications in May.

He added that his administration would process existing applications through March and April, indicating that large numbers of cows will be cleared for slaughter in the coming weeks. This extra volume of cow beef on the European market is likely to have an impact on cow prices.

60,000 cows to be culled in total

Van Dam said that applications so far account for 52% of the phosphate reduction target from the dairy herd, with the plan's overall aim remaining to remove 60,000 cows over time.

Further reductions will be imposed on Dutch dairy farmers through a quota system and lower phosphorus content in feed rations. Overall, the Netherlands' dairy herd is expected to shrink by 11% this year, after two years of continued increase in cow numbers and milk supply.

The country has exceeded its EU phosphate limits for three years and is at risk of losing its derogation if drastic measures are not implemented.

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Full coverage: farming in the Netherlands

Australia aims for A$100bn industry
Fiona Simson, president of Australia’s national farmers federation, spoke to the Irish Farmers Journal about the ambitions of Australia’s agriculture.

The president of Australia’s national farmer’s federation (NFF), Fiona Simson, was in Dublin this week as part of a series of visits to EU countries.

She is holding meetings with farm organisations across the EU and will meet Copa Cogeca, the umbrella body for EU farm organisations. In Ireland, she also held talks with the IFA.

When the IFJ enquired about the purpose of her visit to Ireland, she explained that it was NFF’s view that farmers from across the world face many challenges in common and that it was important to share knowledge and learn from each other.

The big issue for farmers in Australia at present is profitability, or “making a dollar” as she described it, and “having community trust”, which is communication with people to help understanding of how farming fits with the environment and how it is a good thing.

Weather

While weather has been a major issue in Ireland for the past year, drought is a regular feature of Australian farming with parts of the eastern seaboard of Australia being in drought for seven years at this stage.

It has impacted severely on livestock and grain production though the loss of grain production was offset somewhat by Western Australia being able to meet the shortfall, she explained.

Road map 2030

In terms of where Australian agriculture was, the NFF President referred to their recently published Roadmap 2030.

This is not dissimilar to our Food Harvest 2020 or Food Wise 2025 plans and it has an ambition to grow the value of Australian agriculture from the A$65bn that it is today to A$100bn by 2030.

The equivalent in euro would be increasing from €42bn to €65bn. Like Ireland, Australia is a large net exporter of agricultural produce, with 70% of its output exported.

That means their exports would grow from the equivalent of €32bn at present to €45bn by 2030. By way of comparison, Irish food exports in 2016 were €12.5bn, including drinks.

Export markets

The IFJ put it to the NFF president that they would have to grow their export markets to accommodate this expansion and was that why they were engaged with the EU on negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA).

She replied that Australia was talking to the EU and the UK and was of the view that a FTA could bring wins for all.

Prior to the UK joining the then EEC in 1973, it was Australia’s only export market of any significance for agricultural produce. This was lost at a stroke and since then Australia has developed export markets in Asia which is now their local market as well as North America and some sales to the EU which they have the ambition of increasing.

Two-way trade

The NFF President did acknowledge that trade was a a two-way process and they were prepared to open their doors to imports also and as well as referencing well-known Irish drink brands that were popular in Australia, she also mentioned that they were a buyer of Irish dairy and pigmeat products already.

High farmer expectations for divided US Congress
Newly elected US representatives and senators will need cross-party agreement to pass crucial agriculture policy and trade legislation.

The Democratic Party won a majority in the US House of Representatives while President Donald Trump's Republican Party retained control of the Senate in the mid-term elections held on Tuesday.

One of the first items on the agenda of the newly elected representatives and senators will be the Farm Bill, which sets rules and funding for American farmers in the same way as the CAP in Europe.

The previous Farm Bill expired on 30 September and proposed legislation to replace it has been bogged down in Congress, with the House and Senate passing different versions earlier this year. Democrats have opposed Republican cuts to the distribution of food stamps to people on social welfare, a nutrition programme providing for large-scale purchases from the agri-food industry.

The US government has provided emergency funding to plug the gap since October, but has also begun to wind down some farm schemes.

Trade deal

The US Congress must also approve the trade deal concluded by President Trump's administration with Mexico and Canada before it comes into effect. Farmers have been anxious for new export options after the trade war initiated by President Trump with China escalated tariffs for a range of US agri-food commodities.

Exclusive China deal for Origin Green milk
An agreement signed with manufacturer Wyeth links quality-assured Irish milk to a leading infant formula brand in China.

Bord Bia and Wyeth China signed a memorandum of understanding to guarantee Origin Green certification for all milk used in the company's Illuma infant formula products in China.

"The memorandum of understanding with Wyeth is a commitment by the company to source all of its dairy ingredients for its Illuma base brand exclusively from milk from Irish farms participating in Bord Bia's Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme under the Origin Green programme," Bord Bia announced this Tuesday.

Exports

According to the agency, Wyeth accounted for more than half of Ireland's €666.4m dairy exports to China last year. The company, which is part of the Nestlé group, operates the infant formula manufacturing plant in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The agreement to source exclusively quality-assured Irish milk is worth €110m to the Irish dairy industry, Bord Bia estimated.

Promotion

Wyeth and Bord Bia have also agreed to share market data on China and promote Ireland as a sustainable food producer in the country.

“This agreement is very good news for the Irish dairy industry and a vote of confidence in the Irish food sector by one of its strategic partners committed to working with us on sharing insights on Chinese consumers and building awareness of Ireland's premium food offering in the market," said Bord Bia's chief executive Tara McCarthy.

The signing ceremony took place at the Chinese Import and Export Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, where Bord Bia expects more deals to be concluded this week.

Wyeth Nutritionals reported strong growth underpinned by the Chinese infant formula market last year.

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