Pat McCormack said the multi-billion Euro sector was relying on the recent comments of both Professor Boyle and Tanaiste Varadkar confirming no such restrictions were being considered. Those comments, he noted, ran directly counter to the proposals made by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at last week’s meeting of the Dairy Vision Group.
McCormack said the Government had already stated it believed the emissions targets could be achieved without such restrictions and farmers were entitled to take them at their word. It was not going to be possible, McCormack said, to continue trying to co-ordinate the sector if statements made by senior politicians could not be relied upon.
The ICMSA president said food security has come to the top of the agenda, both here and abroad, and the overwhelming requirement was the secure and sustainable production of food. McCormack said the emphasis had to be on utilizing the dairy sector to expand production for Ireland and others.
Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., also issued a statement in relation to the Food Vision Dairy Group meeting.
He said the group was established to advance the actions for the dairy sector identified in the Food Vision 2030 strategy, taking account of the requirement for the dairy sector to contribute to achieving the targets set for the agriculture and land use sector in the Climate Action Plan 2021.
McConalogue indicated the group has had discussions on a variety of issues, including the calculation of the current emissions inventory, pathways to reductions in nitrous oxide emissions and the challenge facing the dairy sector in terms of stabilizing and then reducing emissions.
“My understanding is that the meetings to date have been characterized by constructive engagement on a range of complex and difficult issues,” McConalogue said.
“These discussions necessarily involve open engagement on a variety of options for the development of the sector and the control and reduction of emissions. It is certainly not the case that my Department has any proposals for the re-introduction of quotas or limits on dairy production. There is no predetermined outcome involved and I have tasked the Committee with reflecting on the challenges facing the sector and reporting to me when they have considered all options.
“While nothing is off the table, similarly, there are absolutely no concrete proposals already defined by the Department. This is an industry-led group made up of those who make up our critically important dairy sector; farmers, co-ops, processors, Department officials and scientists led by a committed and skilled chair in Prof Gerry Boyle. I trust this committee with bringing forward a complete and well-thought-out options paper in due course.”
The Minister said he was confident the group’s proposals will, “…inform the important work of ensuring the dairy sector continues to make a vital contribution to employment creation and the rural economy, while supporting efforts to meet our national climate change and environmental obligations. The dairy sector will continue to be a key component of our agri-food sector and overall economy. I want to ensure that the sector remains strong and robust into the future and will continue to be an avenue for farm families to generate a fair income for generations to come.”