The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has hit out at Government over Coillte’s joint venture with the UK investment fund Gresham House, suggesting that allowing the forestry plan to proceed is evidence of policymakers’ bias against farmers.

Its president Pat McCormack said that Government can resolve the matter immediately by amending the forestry programme to prevent Department of Agriculture grants and premiums being paid to investor companies.

“It’s very simple solution but would involve this Government backing farmers over investment funds – and they don’t appear to be interested in that,” McCormack claimed.

The ICMSA stated that a “litany” of recent decisions, ranging from new cow banding rules and a 120-cow limit in the new Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), have shown an anti-farmer bias in policy.

“The Government is prepared to provide millions in tax-free grants and premiums with no limits whatsoever to foreign investors contributing nothing to the local economy and has decided to exclude a farm family milking 121 cows from grant support to modernise their business, a grant worth a maximum of €36,000 over the next five years.

“One would seriously have to question the policy of our Government and rural TDs who support this inexplicable mistake.”

Track record

He asked rural TDs to “look at the Government’s record and judge for themselves whether the Government’s record shows anything like the degree of commitment and support that they pretend”.

The dairy association pointed out that forestry had a far larger budget appointed to it when compared with farm schemes such as the Dairy-Beef Welfare scheme.

On the new cow banding rules, McCormack said margins could be eroded on many farms.

Small and medium farmers are most vulnerable to the change “given their scale”.