Waterford’s Deputy John Deasy has received a commitment from Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the income crisis facing dairy farming will be debated in the Dáil early in the new year.
The Fine Gael TD raised the issue on the Order of Business today (10/12/14). He has also spoken to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney who agreed that the Dáil should fully consider the implications of the latest Teagasc Outlook, which predicts a decline in milk prices of up to 50% in 2015.
From the floor of the House, Mr Deasy said: “As the Taoiseach is aware a lot of young farmers in particular have invested massive amounts of money in farming infrastructure. It would be devastating for them, and for rural communities around the country, if that report was even remotely correct.”
Asking “that the government set aside some time at the earliest date, so that this can be debated in the chamber”, he said that while the matter will come before the Oireachtas agriculture committee, a proper Dáil discussion was warranted.
Accepting his proposal, Mr Kenny said: “Can I say to Deputy Deasy that this is a fundamentally important issue for the agri sector and for young farmers all over the country. I’ve listened to the President of the ICMSA speaking about this recently. It is something of great importance nationally.”
Saying he would “bring the Deputy’s motion to the attention of the Minister for Agriculture”, the Taoiseach assured Mr Deasy, “You can take it we will arrange for the whip to arrange for a series of discussions here in the Chamber early in the new session.”
Teagasc economists are forecasting lower wholesale milk prices from January to June, due, primarily, to global oversupply. This will lead to a worldwide slowdown in production through 2015 — just as the abolition of EU quotas next March, which has prompted huge herd expansion and investment in plant, kicks in.
Deputy Deasy says: “Many rural communities are completely reliant on agriculture and in counties like Waterford dairy farming is the economic anchor of many of our parishes.” IFA figures show there are around 56,000 cows being milked across the county’s 2,760 or so farms.
“You’re talking about thousands of jobs, both directly and in related services and industry, that depend on farming. So there’s no minimising the impact of dairy margins being slashed — even temporarily — at a time when farmers are being advised to expand,” he added.
Given that a 50% increase in Irish production volumes had been expected, and indeed encouraged, up to 2020, Mr Deasy wants the EU Commission to introduce targeted CAP supports to “counteract this volatile price situation and ease the climate of uncertainty within the sector.”