Silence filled the room following contributions from Chris O’Sullivan TD and Senator Tim Lombard at the Clonakilty IFA-organised dairy conference, titled ‘Future proofing dairying in west Cork’ on Monday night.
Many farmers in the room had expended a lot of energy to maintain the nitrates derogation at its current levels since their rally in Bandon in July.
Following last week’s visit from European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, an event described as a ‘tick the box’ exercise by one farmer, and the realisation that their efforts were in vain, farmers weren’t in the mood for the customary applause that usually follows a politician’s contribution.
Over 250 farmers attended the event in Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty where they got an insight from Carbery CEO Jason Hawkins on how they will deal with a potential drop in milk supply over the next 10 years at the new €78m plant at Ballineen.
“If we have 10 to 15% less milk in front of us, then it will be about getting greater efficiency out of the plant, getting the proper product mix and return for farmers,” he said.
He also said that Carbery’s average milk price for 2023 is on track to be the second highest price it has ever paid, second only to last year.
Aine O’Connell, IFA dairy policy executive, told farmers that when it comes to trends in nitrates, they need to take responsibility, as agriculture is the main source. She also said that she wasn’t concerned with the frequency of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) testing or monitoring.
“They’re an independent state agency and we have to trust that they’re doing it to their set standards. I wouldn’t like to see that mistrust or conspiracy theory grow about the EPA. We have to rely on them to publish valid data. Where I have the concerns is their interpretation of that data,” she said.