A “fire sale of dairy cull cows” is a distinct possibility if Ireland is forced into a “cliff-edge” cut to the nitrates derogation, the co-operative sector has warned.

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has called on the Government and European Commission to intervene immediately with a plan to prevent the forced offloading of dairy stock.

ICOS dairy committee chair Niall Matthews said he was deeply concerned at the lack of a coherent Government plan to deal with the consequences of a cut to the derogation and called for an urgent meeting with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.


“The Government and Commission need to intervene immediately with a plan to prevent a cliff-edge effect of a cut to the nitrates derogation.

"Otherwise, we are facing into the possibility of a fire sale of dairy cull cows and other livestock in the autumn and spring of next year, together with complete turmoil in the land rental market,” Matthews insisted.

“We support and welcome efforts by stakeholders to bring the European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius and his officials to Ireland to gain a full appreciation of the economic and social implications of the decision to reduce the maximum stocking rate to 220kg N/ha,” he said.

“His visit to Ireland needs to happen on a ‘sooner rather than later’ basis,” he added.

Water quality

“The Commission needs to learn directly from stakeholders of the deep commitment by Irish farmers to improving water quality and environmental performance and the range of actions and initiatives being adopted by the sector in this respect,” Matthews said.

“Our key ask for the Government is to explore all opportunities with the European Commission to provide leeway for vulnerable family farms affected by the decision and whose viability has been completely undermined and put at risk by the decision. It would be incomprehensible if these impacts are not addressed,” he maintained.

“We also believe that urgent measures are needed to address the barriers to exporting slurry to tillage and lower-stocked livestock farms, including the need to reexamine the N content figure in slurry, and support for a rebate on the cost of hauling slurry.

"Additional supports for slurry storage are needed at farm level and incentives for those involved in the contract rearing of heifers must be looked at.”