There is concern that restrictions will be placed on the production output from the dairy sector, following a meeting between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and farm organisations, Agriland understands.

This morning agriculture minister, Charlie McConalogue hosted a Dairy Sustainability discussion with farm organisations. He outlined plans to establish a group to implement the dairy priorities outlined in Food Vision 2030.

Prof. Gerry Boyle, former director general of Teagasc, will chair the group. Both he and DAFM officials expect an initial report from the group to be submitted by the end of March.

Reacting to this development, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that “it would be a huge mistake to impose output restrictions of any kind on Irish farmers”.

“Farmers in Ireland produce some of the most carbon efficient beef and dairy in the world,” the association’s president, Tim Cullinan said.

“We are more than willing to play our part in addressing the climate challenge, but using a ‘blunt instrument’ to control output would be damaging for the future of Irish farming and rural Ireland,” he added.

“Any actions taken to mitigate emissions must be carefully considered. We cannot let knee-jerk reactions determine the future viability of Irish agriculture.

“Farmers fully understand the need to reduce emissions, but we have a target for 2030, not 2023. I am confident that we can achieve our 2030 targets by using technology to reduce methane and nitrous oxide output per animal,” Cullinan added.

Future of dairy sector

IFA Dairy Committee, chairperson Stephen Arthur, who attended the meeting between the department and farm organisations today, said that the March timeline for this new group to report back is “much too short” given the seriousness of the issue.

Since the removal of milk quotas in 2015, the IFA estimates that dairy farmers have invested €2.2 billion on their farms.

“The prosperity of the sector depends on the ability of farmers to grow their business. The sector has already endured 30 years of stagnation which led to a lost generation of dairy farmers. We will not allow our sector become a twilight industry,” Arthur stressed.