Speaking following a series of meetings with officials of the EU Commission on the current and future developments up to and after the ending of milk quotas, Pat McCormack, deputy president of the ICMSA, said the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, should continue to seek support for an adjustment to the butterfat reference level at the next EU Farm Council meeting on Monday, 17 February, where dairy issues are on the top agenda.

Speaking to AgriLand, McCormack said: “Our dairy farmers are facing a massive superlevy fine this year and an inevitable problem in the final year of milk quotas. This must be a major priority for the minister given that many farmers who normally had cover under flexi-milk in order to avoid a superlevy fine will find that flexi-milk could be dramatically reduced this year compared to previous years.”

Latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the total volume of milk supplies up to the end of December 2013, taking into account the relevant butterfat adjustment, has left Ireland 1.63 per cent over quota.

McCormack explained that under the existing EU rules many farmers have no chance whatsoever of a so-called ‘soft landing’ and, in fact, many farmers, particularly those under 350,000 litres, could find themselves in a worse position because flexi-milk is likely to be substantially lower than previous years.

“From our discussions with the EU Commission, it is clear that an adjustment to the butterfat reference level is the most viable option in terms of providing some relief to farmers and the minister should push this issue at the next EU Farm Council,” he added.

The ICMSA estimates that if a butterfat adjustment took place, it would increase the Irish milk quota in excess of one per cent, which it said, would provide considerable relief to our current position.

“While we do not underestimate the challenge faced by the minister on this issue, we believe that prize is certainly worth the most serious attempt and we want the minister to fight on this because paying millions of euros in superlevy fines is not the way dairy farmers want to be facing into a period of enormous change,” the deputy president added.

In relation to farmers whose herds have been restricted over this quota year, McCormack said the ICMSA has received many complaints from farmers regarding the allocations received from the Disease Flexi-milk Scheme and he called on the minister to review the allocations and explore all options for the farmers in question.