PRESIDENT of the ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that the net effect of the uncertainty and delay around bringing forward details of the anticipated dairy reduction/retirement scheme could be ‘ruinous.’
Calling on Minister McConalogue to lay out his intentions in full detail, Mr McCormack said that the current speculation and uncertainty was playing with dairy families’ futures.
‘ICMSA participated in both the Dairy Vision Group and the Beef & Sheep Vision Groups in the same good faith and we’d like to think that was the approach of all the other parties.
‘Both groups contributed – and were set up on the basis of contributing – to informing the Minister of the actions and policy needed to move forward on climate change. One of those policies considered was the need to introduce a dairy retirement/reduction scheme and the government representatives enthusiastically endorsed that idea.
‘The problem is that they haven’t announced a thing since then and the lead-in time for making decisions on dairy farms is at least two years,’ he pointed out.
‘Individuals and families that might have considered this scheme are still left completely in the dark as regards when or how or what might be involved, and we’re already into the 2023 calving season with the 2024 breeding programmes being looked at and planned,’ said the president.
‘Farmers can’t think in terms of political cycles and PR calendars.
‘We have to work seasons in advance and it’s really frustrating that we have to point this out to the political masters. The absence of detail around any retirement/reduction scheme really amounts to playing with dairy families’ futures– we can’t afford it and it’s grossly irresponsible and unfair to ask us to play along,’ said Mr McCormack.
Stating that a prerequisite for any retirement/reduction scheme was that it be voluntary, the ICMSA president said that payment rates agreed needed to reflect the income loss as a result of making the reduction required by the scheme, but also a sufficient level of incentive to join the scheme in the first place. In addition, as part of the conditions of the scheme, it should be possible for the farmer to lease his or her land, subject to certain stipulations.
‘The government has been very good at talking about climate action and their commitment to supporting the agriculture sector – but way too much of that support is just that: talk.
‘It’s not too much, surely, to ask the Minister and his Department to refrain from speculating and increasing expectations about retirement schemes if they are not sincere and in earnest about really proceeding with them.
‘This is all way too serious for this kind of hyping and raising hopes. There’s a responsibility that comes with all this and frankly I’m surprised that I have to remind the Minister and his officials of this when all they have to do is remember the length of a breeding cycle and then look at a calendar. If that retirement/reduction scheme is going to happen at all, then he has just weeks to spell it out in full detail,’ concluded Mr McCormack.