Dairygold raised the importance of retaining the nitrates derogation during a meeting with Taoiseach Simon Harris on Friday 10 May.

Dairygold chair Seán O’Brien and interim chief executive Michael Harte welcomed Taoiseach Simon Harris to Dairygold’s Mitchelstown HQ on Friday and reiterated the importance of the European Commission retaining the derogation at the current level beyond 2025.

“With a unique grass-based production system, Ireland’s dairy industry is in a competitive and more sustainable position, in comparison to other global milk producing models.

"Dairygold, along with our strategic partners, has invested circa €600m in our processing facilities while our milk suppliers have invested significantly on their farms," O’Brien said.

Negative economic impact

The removal of the derogation, O'Brien said, would have a significant negative economic impact on milk processors and farmers, challenging the future viability of their businesses and severely negatively affecting the rural economy.

“Dairygold has established a dedicated water quality advisory team to advise farmers on measures to protect and improve water quality. In 2023, they carried out more than 700 farm visits.

"This is one element of Dairygold’s €10m Grassroots milk supplier sustainability bonus programme designed to help our milk suppliers transition to more sustainable farming.

"A retention of the derogation would allow time for the positive impact of these water quality improvement measures to be demonstrated across our catchment region," he added.

Dairygold interim chief executive Michael Harte added: “It’s important that we work hand in hand with the Government to protect the future of sustainable dairy production in the region, where 2,600 family farms supplying milk to Dairygold depend on the dairy industry for their livelihood.

"Sixty percent of these farms avail of the derogation, so it is a critical element in the structure of dairy farming in our region.

"We will continue to work closely with him [the Taoiseach], the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and other State departments to strengthen the future of sustainable dairy farming in Ireland.”