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Other ‘options’ before any dairy reduction scheme


Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said he believes there are “options on the table” to be pursued before introducing any scheme to compensate dairy farmers to cull cows from their herds.

An exit and reduction strategy has been recommended by the Food Vision dairy group to compensate farmers.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr McConalogue said the Government is committed to continuing its nitrates derogation scheme and is taking steps to ensure water quality is maintained.

“It’s about how we manage nutrients and making sure we do that effectively. I put together about 18 months ago now a stakeholder group of farmers and co-ops all within the sector to make sure that we’re taking the steps which will see water quality improve and to make sure that we’re maintaining that derogation.”

The nitrates derogation allows farmers to farm at higher stocking rates when they take extra steps to protect the environment.

In effect, a farmer must not exceed two dairy cows per hectare without a derogation but can farm at almost three cows per hectare if approved.

Asked how the dairy herd could be reduced by 65,000 a year for the next three years without an exit scheme Minister McConologue said: “There is real significant change ongoing at farm level at the moment.

“Over the last two years, we’ve seen a 30% reduction in just two years in relation to the amount of fertilizer that is sown over those two years across farms across Ireland.

“Alongside the reduction of 30% we’re seeing in fertilizer use in just the last two years alone, we’re seeing farmers rapidly adopt multispecies sward which is equally productive in relation to grass production, but is much better from a water quality point of view and a sustainability point of view.

“We’re also seeing farmers adopt new technology in relation to the low emission slurry spreading machines and I’m providing 60% grant aid for that.

“There’s very significant work on the way in our beef sector through the beef data genomics programme in relation to improving the genetics of our herd, which can see emissions reduced as well.”

Asked again about how the national herd could be reduced without an exit scheme Mr McConologue said that he hopes to see further growth in the tillage sector.

“It’s obviously under pressure at the moment, particularly given that the late growing season.

“If we produce more tillage in the country that’s something that will look will reduce our emissions overall.”

An Taisce said that farmers and the environment will lose out from the absence of an exit scheme to encourage farmers to leave dairying.

Spokesperson Elaine McGoff said: “Instead of leadership, like we see in Denmark, we get … a commitment to the derogation while putting ineffective measures in place for nitrates and scrapping a potential retirement scheme for dairy farmers.

“Farmers and the environment are being failed here,” she added.


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