A Down-based milk producer has expressed huge annoyance at being excluded from an EU dairy support scheme because his annual milk output exceeds the 1,000,000L threshold for the measure.

William Cromie, who farms near Rathfriland, said it was discriminatory to have the EU Small Scale Dairy Farmer Scheme for Northern Ireland introduced in such a way.

“There are many other dairy farmers who feel the same way. It’s a reality that larger milk producers have invested in their businesses over recent years. They are also carrying most of the debt burden that is such a feature of the milk industry at the present time.

This is blatant discrimination and I intend taking the matter further.

The funds for the dairy support measure will be drawn down from the £4.1m European Adjustment Aid (EAA) scheme that has been confirmed for Northern Ireland. However, the final figure will not be known until the other component EAA measures have been worked through.

Cromie also took issue with the use of 2015/2016 as the reference year for the new support measure, proposing that 2016/2017 could have been used since “this was the period of most upheaval for milk producers”.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) also confirmed that it was not consulted on either the inclusion of the 1,000,000L output threshold or the 2015/2016 reference year criteria. 

However, Holstein UK welcomed the introduction of the measure. The organisation also noted the recent vote of the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee to support the introduction of a Voluntary Milk Reduction Scheme.

This would be part of the policy ‘toolbox’ to be deployed in the event of EU milk prices falling below an agreed level.

“With the Brexit negotiations on the horizon, it is all the more important for UK milk producers that a sustainable milk policy is in place throughout the rest of Europe,” a Holstein UK spokesperson said.