The Irish dairy sector has seen considerable changes in the last few years, let alone since 2009, when Pat McCormack went on the road for the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Agriland sat down with former ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, to discuss his time in the role, and the future of the Irish dairy sector.

McCormack spoke about the challenges facing the Irish dairy sector, government supports for farmers, his regrets from his time as ICMSA president, and his plans for the future.

McCormack was elected ICMSA president in 2017, when he succeeded John Comer.

Prior to being elected, the Co. Tipperary dairy farmer served as deputy president for six years, and was also chair of the dairy committee.

Denis Drennan from Co. Kilkenny now succeeds McCormack as ICMSA president.


During McCormack’s time as president, the dairy sector has faced a number of significant challenges, including the recent reduction in the maximum stocking rates for farms availing of the nitrates derogation – from 250kg to 220kg of organic N/ha.

McCormack said that water quality is one of the biggest challenges facing the Irish dairy sector and its family farm model.

“If we can reverse the trend, and agriculture isn’t the only the single emitter of nitrates to affect water quality, there are numerous other emitters.

“In the general public domain, the finger seems to be pointed in our direction, which is hugely frustrating – but we do need to give the science and adoption at farm-level an opportunity to make a difference,” he stressed.

McCormack noted low emission slurry spreading (LESS), protected urea, and sufficient slurry storage as being just some of the measures involved.


McCormack said that within the ICMSA, he has no regrets – and believes that he left no stone unturned in regards to trying to be as efficient as possible when lobbying on behalf of farmers.

He said: “When we needed to go to ag-house, when we needed to sit down with the department, we did.

“There are many regrets outside of that, and one of those would be the farm management deposit scheme, which was an income tool to management volatility.

“You take the year 2023, it is probably the greatest case and point compared to 2022 – where we saw anywhere from 22 to 23c/L come off the price of milk.

“Farmers faced a huge tax liability for the year 2022, and cash flow was extremely tight – that was a huge pressure.

“If there was one single thing that I would have liked to delivered in that period of time, it was for the family farm model, the sole trader, to have a farm management scheme that would help them through the more challenging years,” McCormack said.

Speaking on entering ag-house to meet with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, after the reduction in the nitrates derogation was announced, McCormack said that no one won out of that event – but that he has no regrets about meeting the minister that day.

He said that this issue was paramount, and was the biggest challenge facing the dairy industry since 1983, which he described as “putting the breaks on the industry”.

Pat McCormack

Speaking on what he has achieved as president, McCormack said that he believes that being 45 minutes from the ICMSA headquarters was helpful; an hour from the Jack Lynch tunnel and an hour from the Portlaoise toll – which he described as the “heart beat of the dairy sector in Ireland”.

“If I had gone out this time 12-months-ago, I might have been a hero, when I started in 2009, we were at 19c/L, and no one would have thought 57c/L was achievable 12-months-ago,” he added.

McCormack said: “As someone in their mid-40s, I like to think the opportunity to represent people hasn’t gone away and that I will be back in some other format.

“I am not going to knock on any doors, but if someone knocks on my door I will always listen, that has always been my policy.

“If I can contribute to the agricultural sector in the years ahead, I would only be delighted to do so, because it mainly is about securing the further of Ireland – but also about securing my own personal income in the years ahead.

“Predominately a dairy farmer I started, a dairy farmer as I finish today, and a dairy farmer for many years to come.”