An IFA delegation led by IFA President Tim Cullinan met with EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius in Brussels yesterday.
Speaking after the meeting, Tim Cullinan said that the meeting had been forthright but constructive. The Commissioner confirmed he would visit Ireland on November 23rd on foot of the invitation from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, following his meeting with IFA at the Fine Gael party ‘think-in’ in Limerick in September.
“It was clear at the meeting that the Commissioner wants to be helpful to Irish farmers on the issue. It is vital that our Minister and his Department have proper engagement with the Commissioner and his officials to explore possible compromises,” he said.
“We were very clear with the Commissioner that we are very proud of our grass-based production system which is the basis for our derogation,” he said.
“The mid-term review mechanism agreed by our Department was unfair and did not give any time for the measures farmers are already carrying out to have a positive effect on water quality,” he said.
“The reality is that reducing the upper limit of the derogation from 250kg of organic nitrogen per ha to 220kg will have little impact on water quality, but it will have huge consequences for the farmers directly impacted and for thousands more farmers indirectly impacted, as it will further increase the cost of rented land. We stressed this very strongly to the Commissioner,” he said.
In addition, it is clear that it is completely unreasonable to expect farmers in the so called ‘Red Zone’ to reduce their stocking rate to 220kg by the end of this year, which is less than eight weeks away.
“Farmers made the decision to put their cows in calf last spring before any decision was taken to reduce some areas to 220kg organic N. It is unreasonable and not in line with good animal welfare to now expect farmers to cull these in-calf cows,” he said.
“The Commissioner was clear that he will engage fully with the Taoiseach at the meeting in two weeks’ time, and in the lead up to it. In the interim it is absolutely vital that the Minister for Agriculture engages fully with the Commissioner and his officials,” he said.
The IFA delegation also included the Director General Damian McDonald, the Director of Policy Tadhg Buckley, the Director of European Affairs Liam MacHale, the Dairy Policy Executive Aíne O’Connell and the Brussels Executive Noel Banville.