Action plan to address labour issues in dairy published

The ‘People in Dairy Action Plan’ – which aims to address a series of labour and human capital issues facing the dairy sector – has been published by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed today (Wednesday, June 20).

At the meeting of the Food Wise High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) in October 2017, Minister Creed requested that a multi-stakeholder industry group be established to consider these issues and develop an action plan.

The “People in Dairy Industry Stakeholder Group” was convened under the chairmanship of former secretary general of the department Tom Moran to consider the issue.

On receiving the action plan from the chairman, the minister commented: “In my recent statement regarding the Government announcement of a pilot quota of employment permits for the agri-food sector, including dairy farms, I indicated that a more comprehensive response to the shortage of labour in the dairy sector would come in the form of the report of the People in Dairy Stakeholder Group.

“I am delighted therefore to receive this comprehensive plan and am particularly heartened that it has been developed with the collaboration of all of the main sectoral stakeholders.”

The action plan is based on six pillars.

These are:
  • Measures to ensure adequate availability of skilled farm operatives both seasonally and throughout the year;
  • Labour efficient farms;
  • Employers with good HR skills;
  • New training and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme for dairy farmers and employees;
  • “Stepping Up” and “Stepping Back” succession pathways to dairy farming; and
  • Promotion of dairying as an attractive career.

The chairman, Tom Moran, noted: “The Teagasc ‘People in Dairy Project’ report published last year set out the challenge that the group had to consider the need for approximately 6,000 new entrants over the next decade to replace retirees and meet the requirements of expanding herds.

That report was clear that the sector would face a severe shortage of labour if measures were not put in place to meet this level of demand.

Moran added:“While the plan has been structured around six key areas, the group were clear that there are overlaps and linkages between all six and none of them can be taken in isolation.

“Together, they offer the best route for Irish dairy farms to address the labour challenges they will face in the coming years.”

Minister Creed stated: “I am impressed with the range of actions that the stakeholders have developed in this plan.

“They are innovative and detailed and will help to ensure that Irish dairying has access to the human capital it requires to achieve future growth. Competition for graduates and new entrants between various sectors of the economy is strong, but I am of the view that dairy farming can offer a rewarding career and possesses many significant lifestyle advantages over other career options.

All actors in the sector have a role to play in communicating this positive message, particularly to students making career choices.

Concluding, Minister Creed said: “When implemented, the actions will also help to improve other aspects of Irish dairy farms, such as performance and profitability, but also health and safety – a key concern of mine.

“Given that the Plan is a key output from Food Wise 2025, it is appropriate that it is forward-looking and visionary. I commend the Chairman and the industry stakeholder group on this excellent piece of work.”