The decision made by the European Commission regarding nitrates has sparked concerns within the dairy sector, with the Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Jackie Cahill, stating that it will cause “huge damage”. A meeting was held in Brussels this week by the committee to discuss the derogation, as well as nature restoration and forestry. Deputy Cahill expressed his disappointment with the commission’s announcement that it will not reconsider Ireland’s nitrates derogation, describing it as a “regressive” move. He believes that this decision will result in the underutilization of processing system capacity and pose a serious threat to the sustainability of Irish family farms.
Furthermore, Deputy Cahill argued that this decision will discourage young farmers from entering the industry. He criticized the European Commission for failing to recognize the sustainability of the Irish grass-based farming system, which he claims makes Ireland the most sustainable producer of dairy in the world. He emphasized the need to differentiate Ireland’s green farming model from other models across the continent.
In response to this development, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, is set to meet with farm organizations to discuss the nitrates derogation and scheme payment dates. However, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has decided not to attend the meeting and plans to stage a protest on Kildare Street in Dublin instead.
Senator Tim Lombard, who is also in Brussels this week, expressed his disappointment and described the news as “a real blow to all involved”. He intends to highlight the impact of the decision during a face-to-face meeting with EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. Senator Lombard emphasized the importance of making a strong and credible case on behalf of Irish farmers and expressed his frustration that this opportunity was not available before Minister McConalogue’s meeting on Monday.
Lombard further emphasized the challenges faced by dairy farmers, including the significant drop in milk prices and the now-imposed cap on milk production. He called on Minister McConalogue to present a vision and policy for the industry, which is vital to the country’s economy.
These recent developments have raised concerns about the future of the Irish dairy sector and its ability to remain sustainable in the face of regulatory decisions. The impact on farmers, particularly young farmers, and the overall viability of family farms is a growing concern. The need for the European Commission to recognize the unique qualities of Ireland’s grass-based farming model has become increasingly apparent. As discussions continue and protests are staged, the future of the dairy sector hangs in the balance, awaiting a resolution that will ensure its continued success and sustainability.