The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has urged TDs to effectively block the imposition of a climate-change cap on Irish livestock numbers.

In a letter sent to all TDs on Monday morning, ICMSA leader Pat McCormack called on all deputies to defend the interests of the farm sector and ensure that the industry is not “unfairly, unjustifiably and illogically restricted”.

“It is our opinion that present Government policy represents a disastrous threat to commercial farming and the rural communities who depend on that activity,” McCormack stated.

“We urge you to ensure that a cap will not be placed on livestock numbers and that farmers will be allowed sustainable stocking levels - and I mean sustainable from an economic, social and environmental perspective,” the ICMSA leader said.

Future of farming

“Decisions made by Government in relation to carbon budgets in the coming days and weeks will determine the future of Irish farming over coming years and decades," he said.

“These decisions will rank amongst the most serious taken over the last 70 years and I ask you to make those decisions in a way that ensures that farmers are not unfairly, unjustifiably and illogically restricted,” he added.

McCormack insisted that farmers accepted the scale of the challenge and the enormity of the changes required to tackle climate change, but he said these actions should not necessitate “the effective ending of commercial family farming in Ireland”.

“It is important to note that Ireland has one of the most carbon-efficient dairy sectors globally and, from that perspective, it makes no sense for Ireland to forgo dairy production that will then switch to less environmentally efficient producers. Cutting dairy production in Ireland will increase global emissions,” he argued.

Undermining farms

The ICMSA leader also accused the Government of undermining commercial dairy farms in its stance on CAP reform.

“The systematic stripping away of supports for commercial family farms evident in the Government’s CAP strategy leaves no room for doubt.

"Commercial family farms are being undermined at every turn in favour of some model of semi-productive land stewardship beside large industrial-scale farms,” McCormack maintained.

“The consequences of this choice will be immense and disastrous in economic and social terms.

"Co-ops and processing and value-adding facilities that were built up over generations and which have established worldwide reputations for excellence and innovation will either retreat as their raw material and supply base contracts or else become reliant on industrial scale ‘factory farming’,” he predicted.

“The multiplier effect of farming and specifically of dairy farming will now work negatively. Every single euro earned by local farms is multiplied three times as it goes into their local economies; that same euro will be deducted three times as it disappears from the local economy,” he warned.