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IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy said the Irish sheep sector is a very important farming enterprise with 35,000 farmers and an output of €390m.

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Commenting on the cuts made by co-ops to February and/or March milk prices, IFA National Dairy Chairman Tom Phelan said that, with milk prices now at 1995 levels, co-ops had some serious questions to answer.

“Bearing in mind that many industry spokespeople predicted only a couple of months ago that 2019 milk prices would be about on par with last year’s, co-ops owe it to their suppliers to signal that this is the end of milk price cuts for 2019.  Farmers need every cent as peak approaches to clear their massively increased 2018 bills,” Mr Phelan said.

He said: “There are 3 crucial questions co-ops and industry must answer:

1.  Why are milk prices back to 1995 levels when massive investment has been made by co-ops, Ornua and Bord Bia in processing and marketing?

2 – While farmers are delivering on higher quality milk and sustainability, where is the value pay-back to them through improved remuneration for their milk?

3 – Why are the dairy industry and Bord Bia allowing infant formula manufacturers to flout the spirit of Origin Green by importing SMP from countries which do not operate anything like the SDAS?”

Mr Phelan added: “The following are relevant facts:

  • Since 2015, Irish dairy farmers have invested well over €1billion on farms, and over the last couple of decades, they have added considerable value to their milk by improving all quality indicators, yields and milk solids, with butterfat up 12% and protein 8% since 1999.
  • Since 2013, they have also engaged with the concept of sustainability, with 100% of farmers participating in stringent audits every 18 months to obtain certification under the Origin Green’s Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS).
  • Since the end of the milk quota regime in 2015, the Irish dairy industry has invested over half a billion Euro in additional stainless steel to process the extra milk produced by farmers into products in high global demand, and many co-ops have plans to invest further.
  • Bord Bia, Ornua, and individual co-operatives, have all spent considerable sums on marketing and identifying new markets and products to up the value of our national mix.
  • Farmers have been told for years that infant formula manufacturers had the most exacting of standards when it came to the quality and specs of milk and dairy products.  They were used to justify often costly demands on farmers to engage with numerous milk quality improvement schemes and participating in SDAS.”

“So, farmers legitimately ask: when all this investment has been made on farms and in industry to generate value, when a national food sustainability strategy has been developed and farmers are delivering on it, how come we still, this month, are looking at a 1995 milk price?”

“Our industry must do better.  But right now, they must clearly state to dairy farmers that they have seen the end of milk price cuts for 2019,” he concluded.

Speaking at the launch of the climate report in Dáil Éireann today, IFA President Joe Healy said the Teagasc Plan is the basis for further climate action in agriculture and is far better than the unrealistic proposals put forward by the Citizens’ Assembly. This included an unjust and inequitable tax on Ireland’s carbon efficient food production model.

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IFA President Joe Healy said the Government has abandoned farm families by failing to implement the three-year cap on farm assets under the financial assessment of the Fair Deal scheme. The Government has been promising this would be introduced since last July.

Addressing farmers at the Dept of Health today, he said it is now nearly nine months since Cabinet approved the proposal to introduce a three-year cap on farm and small businesses assets, where a family successor commits to continue to farm the asset for a period of six years.

The IFA President said, “Farm families are beyond frustrated with the delays.  When Minister Daly announced last July that he had Cabinet approval to introduce a cap and that he would be progressing the matter in the Oireachtas in the autumn session, we thought we had reached the finish line.  Unfortunately, that was not the case and we find ourselves here today.”

IFA Farm Family & Social Affairs Chair Caroline Farrell said the ongoing delays are causing huge uncertainty and distress for farm families and are jeopardising the viability of the farms affected for future generations.

“In the time since Cabinet approved the proposal, it has cost individual farm families an estimated €40,000 in nursing home costs,” she said.

She said what is most upsetting is that the delays are having the greatest impact on the most vulnerable of farm families, whose farms will be unviable unless the Minister acts now.

IFA is calling for the:

  • The changes to be introduced without any further delay and retrospectively applied to July when the Cabinet approved proposal for new and existing farmers availing of the Fair Deal scheme.
  • The three-year cap must also be applied to farms that are currently leased, but where a family successor gives a verified commitment that they would continue to farm the asset for a period of six years.

Speaking at a large IFA meeting of cattle farmers in Portlaoise tonight (Mon), IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said beef farmers have been savaged financially over the last year by Brexit related price cuts.

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