Co-ops Must Be Ready to Invest in Farmers’ Economic Sustainability when Setting March Milk Prices

“The milk price decisions some co-ops took for February milk have shown just how out of touch they are with the massive challenges to their economic sustainability suppliers have been experiencing for the last number of months,” IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Tom Phelan has said. He said it is at least as important for co-ops to invest in their suppliers as it is to invest in stainless steel.

“When setting the March milk price, Co-ops cannot make the same mistake as they did last month. IFA Dairy Committee members will encourage fellow dairy farmers within their county to join them in meeting or otherwise contacting every board member and some of the members of the outer boards or other co-op committees over the coming days to lobby them and drive home this point: co-ops must slow down and minimise any further milk price adjustment.

“At our meeting last week, members of the IFA Dairy Committee were very clear that, while market returns continue to be challenging in this early part of the season, co-ops need to invest in farmers to help them cope after a horrendously long winter, late spring and a hectic calving season made worse by atrocious weather which left many exhausted and stressed.

“Members from all regions have reported having to complement feed at high cost to themselves as fodder stores have been depleted as cows were brought in early last autumn and had to be kept in till late this spring. Despite this additional feeding, protein levels have plunged in March according to most co-ops. Without any price cut at all, farmers will be looking at a depressed milk cheque for March.

“Co-ops have been lecturing farmers about sustainability: now they must ensure that sustainability is also about the economic viability of dairy farmers, including for the long term. This must mean supporting farmers through difficult conditions such as were experienced in the last 7 months, and in the short term minimising any adjustment to March milk prices,” Tom Phelan concluded.

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