Addressing IFA’s major dairy farmer conference, “The Business of Dairy Farming Post 2015” in Naas, Co Kildare today (Tues), IFA President Eddie Downey said the challenges emerging with the ending of quotas in less than six months’ time require a range of policy measures at local and European level to support milk producers.
He said, “We need more from our industry than monthly price cut announcements. We need to see an industry strategy to provide volatility management solutions and sustainable milk prices, in which I believe the Irish Dairy Board must play a central role”.
At European level, Eddie Downey said the response to the Russian ban has been insufficient. “Minister Coveney must demand a suite of measures to spare farmers the consequences of geopolitical decisions they cannot be expected to pay for. European dairy policy is lacking when it comes to providing practical ways, other than the Single Farm Payment, to help farmers deal with income volatility. We will be looking to build on the progress of the agri-taxation review in this area”.
The IFA President said milk production costs in Ireland have risen by over 40% since 2005. The EU ‘safety net’ level, which is the price level at which market intervention by the EU Commission is triggered, must be increased to reflect cost inflation, and export refunds reopened to help turnaround market sentiment quickly. He added that the looming 2014/15 superlevy fine would be an even greater challenge for farmers with weakened milk prices, and urged our Minister and new Agriculture Commissioner to canvass a sufficient majority of member states to secure the elimination of the butterfat corrector – which would offer some small relief.
IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Sean O’Leary, who will be chairing the Conference, said this was a crucial opportunity for potential new entrants and existing dairy farmers, whether or not they plan to increase production, to focus on the all-important business skills which they will need to thrive post-2015.
“The post-quota era is exciting in that it opens up opportunities for Irish farmers to tap into a fast growing global market for quality, innovative, sustainably produced dairy products. But it will also be challenging in that the necessary investment and business of dairy farming will have to take place in a much more volatile price environment than we have known in the past 30 years,” Mr O’Leary said.
“We want to ask farmers to focus on the business of dairy farming. How to manage one’s finances, budgets and cash flows, how to apply for credit for investment, how to grow the business as tax efficiently as possible in the context of greater volatility. We will also have expert speakers on farming safely and sustainably, and we will examine what future markets will hold, and what measures can be put in place to help farmers cope with income volatility,” he said.