The President of ICMSA has warned against any complacency that the dairy crisis is over. John Comer said that what he called “the back patting” that followed a one cent per litre increase for July milk now needs to stop and the sector must move decisively towards price ranges above the cost of production.
Noting that the EU Dairy Package was finalised and agreed last Thursday in Brussels, Mr Comer noted that the biggest single issue facing dairy farmers this year is income and, in this regard, Ireland’s allocation of the EU aid package will translate to approximately €11.1 million which ICMSA wants the Irish government to 100% match.
Mr Comer categorically rejected the idea of leveraging the Irish allocation into low-cost loans and instead proposed paying the money directly to milk suppliers and by-passing other less effective and more cumbersome routes.
“ICMSA is proposing that this funding is used to provide dairy farmers with a direct payment of €1,200. This is permissible under the regulations and would provide a level of support to dairy farmers during an extremely difficult period. Unlike other sectors, there are no coupled support schemes in place for dairy cows comparable to the BDGP in place for suckler cows and the new sheep payment being introduced.
“In terms of direct support, dairy farmers have lost out heavily since the Budget cuts in 2009 and it might be time to look at a coupled payment for dairy cows similar to that available for suckler cows. But, in the short term, the funding available from the dairy crisis package should be directed to dairy farmers in an administratively simple fashion and most certainly should not be used to establish low interest loans as that effectively translates to a bank subsidy. As far as ICMSA is concerned the idea that funding to address a dairy crisis would be hijacked and end up with the banks is just astonishing and unacceptable.
“If the Government want to involve the banks in helping dairy farmers they could try convincing them to charge competitive rates. We cannot and should not use crisis funding for farmers to subsidise banks that are now again making profits in the billions again”, he concluded