Cork dairy farmers were disappointed at the absence of the CEOs of the country’s milk processors when it came to efforts to try and maintain the nitrates derogation at 250kg organic N/ha, an emergency meeting of Cork central IFA heard on Sunday night.
Around 120 farmers gathered at the Kingsley Hotel in Cork city with the nitrates derogation the only topic on the agenda.
The sense of anger and frustration was palpable in the room.
“The silence from the co-ops is frightening on this,” quipped one farmer, while numerous calls for the CEOs of the dairy co-ops to be more visible were made from the floor.
Farmers were also angry that they had been sold a pup by Government politicians and this resulted in calls for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to not be asked to address the IFA AGM in 2024.
There was also a robust discussion around whether the organisation needed to engage more with opposition parties such as Sinn Féin following the Government’s handling of the nitrates derogation.
James Crowley from the Lackareigh branch said that land came up for sale next to him and he bought it.
“It meant I was able to run an extra 20 cows. When banding came in, I lost 20 cows and now with the 220kg N/ha limit it means another 25 have to go. That’s a swing of 45 cows and we got 44 days’ notice to cut back. I don’t know what to do now.”
Another farmer told the meeting that he was in fear of losing his winter milk bonus because it’s based on a percentage of his 2022 supplies.
“I was milking 280 cows before banding came in and I had to reduce by 20 cows. The reduction to 220kg N/ha means I’ll lose another 35 unless I take on land, which isn’t an option around me. Now with reduction of cows, I don’t think I’ll make my allowance, which means I could miss my winter milk bonus of about €30,000.”
Conor Desmond from the Inniscarra branch, said that in order for him to stay milking at the current rate, he sold 10 weanlings and 12 to 14 in-calf cows in the dry cow ring.
They’re highly educated men and I’d have them representing us but they need to be more visible on this
“We planned to calve and milk them next year and sell in 12 months, but now because of the derogation going to 220kg N/ha we had to sell them in order to try have a similar number of cows next year.”
Patrick O’Driscoll from Lackareigh branch, said that suppliers are paying co-op CEOs to secure their business, but that there was no trace of them around the derogation.
“I think we’re not seeing them and they’re getting away too lightly altogether. They’re highly educated men and I’d have them representing us but they need to be more visible on this.”
Killeigh branch member Robin Buckley said that he worried at night that the decision-making on his farm is being taken away from him.
“My son is the fifth generation and he’s eager to go farming and I’m worried that the next generation of farmers will just get fed up with that and the negativity around farming. Will they continue? And would you blame them if they walked away?”