Proposals outlined in the Food Vision Dairy Group’s final report which details an exit or reduction scheme from the dairy sector have been angrily rejected by Macra, which claims that they are an “attack” on rural Ireland.

John Keane, Macra’s president, said the final report, which contains measures on how to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector, will “remove opportunities” for young people who want to become active farmers.

He said Macra has “outrightly rejected” the exit or reduction proposals in the report, which has been delivered to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

Macra president, John Keane

Keane said the exit proposals would serve to “further inflate the land market and force further pressures on farmers”.  

“The measure does nothing to support generational renewal, which is the biggest threat to sustainability on farms,” he said.

“Sterilising land by not allowing breeding ruminants to be on these farms is just a non-runner for Macra and its members.” 

The Food Vision Dairy Group, which was set up in January 2022, is chaired by Prof. Gerry Boyle. It includes representatives from farm organisations, the dairy processing industry, academia, as well as officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The final report sets out 19 recommendations but Boyle has acknowledged that not all the members of the group agree with it.

“Despite the best efforts of all concerned, it has not been possible to secure unanimous agreement,” he said.

Macra believes the proposed exit or reduction scheme could take €1 billion out of the rural economy every year.

Its national president said that research suggests that every €1 earned by a farmer generates between €3-4 in the rural economy.

“The measure proposes to remove 100,000 cows from farms,” he said.

“National farm survey data from 2021 shows that gross output/cow was almost €2,500. When multiplied by 100,000 cows this gives you a drop in farm income of €250 million annually.”

According to Keane, the proposals set out in the Food Vision Dairy Group will effectively remove land from production and close down opportunities for young people.

“Macra proposed an on-farm succession scheme to the vision group that supports the older generation to step back and support the young people to step forward and become active farmers,” he said.

“This will deliver real change, not land sterilisation.”