Live export issues and the fodder crisis have been identified as two key areas that need to be addressed as soon as possible in 2018, by the new president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack.

These issues need to be placed at the top of the ‘to-do list‘ for 2018 and need to be dealt with quickly and correctly, he said.

McCormack – a 40-year-old dairy farmer from Co. Tipperary – is the youngest ever president of the organisation and he was elected without contest before Christmas.

Also Read: McCormack formally elected ICMSA president

Commenting on the fodder crisis, the president said that it is already obvious that supports will have to be put in place to ensure that farmers can get additional fodder into affected areas – at a reasonable cost – or that concentrates will have to be subsidised for the farmers impacted by the crisis.

But he also cautioned that matters will be made “considerably worse” if the problems around shipping export calves are not addressed and dealt with in an effective manner.

“Additional fodder will be needed in certain areas and we’ll be looking for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to provide support for the transportation and purchase of this fodder.

But we also see a link to the question of live export; the calving season is only weeks away and, with over 1.5 million calves being born between now and the end of May, it is essential that the shipping issue is resolved in advance of the calving season and that we have adequate capacity to get to our markets.

“Any threat to that trade – coming on top of a fodder crisis – really compounds an already bad situation and pushes already-stressed farms to the edge.

“These would be the two issues that the ICMSA would want to see Minister Creed getting to grips with immediately,” McCormack said.

Long-term issues

With regards to long-term issues, the president outlined that the Brexit situation remains a major threat to the Irish agri-food sector – and the conclusion of a satisfactory deal on this matter is “by no means assured”.

He was also adamant that Ireland had no alternative but to block the Mercosur deal – given the nature and size of the threat to our beef sector – without any apology to anyone.

McCormack also outlined that the ICMSA would insist that Ireland holds out for “at least the maintenance of the current budget for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)”, with support for family farms to be the bedrock of CAP going forward post-2020.

From a family farm perspective, volatility remains the key concern, McCormack said.

He committed the ICMSA to a continuous lobbying effort aimed at securing taxation measures in Budget 2019 in order to support farmers during periods of price volatility. As well as this, he also indicated that the ICMSA would lobby for the incorporation into CAP of the Voluntary Milk Supply Reduction Scheme.

McCormack vowed to defend the interests of the family farms that are ICMSA’s core membership and the economic backbone of rural Ireland during his tenure as president of the association.