IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Kevin Kiersey confirmed he had obtained an agreement from the Department for a review of the rules of the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal’s (MQAT) animal disease allocations for future years. He added he had also urged the Department to examine options to provide some additional top up for 2011/12 to farmers whose herds have been restricted for long periods and who have a good track record of remaining within quota.
“The MQAT animal disease allocations specifically aim to provide relief from superlevy to farmers who normally stay within their quota, but who, because their herds were locked up, end up over quota with little or no option to reduce their exposure,” Mr Kiersey explained.
“This year, some of those farmers who were locked up for lengthy periods of time have not fared well out of the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal scheme and now face potentially sizeable superlevy fines they have had no opportunity to mitigate,” he said.
“As superlevy may be a reality for the next few years, it is crucial that the procedures followed by the MQAT be reviewed in detail and amended where necessary. In particular, I believe they need to take greater account of the farmer’s production track record, and include the length of time for which a herd is restricted, not just the extent to which the quota is exceeded,” he said.
Mr Kiersey said it was also important to acknowledge the nature of the affected business. “A farmer who routinely sells in-calf heifers, but is restricted from selling just before they start milking, will have different needs from a farmer locked up for a short period at a less sensitive time. The scheme must better assess farmers’ ability to mitigate, or not, their situation, in order to fairly target the very limited amount of quota available to those who need it most,” he said.
“The National Reserve is a very limited resource – it is therefore important that it be targeted carefully in a superlevy year. The Department and the MQAT must apply greater scrutiny of application forms, to ensure that farmers who normally would remain reasonably within their quota, and whose excess milk production is solely due to their herd being restricted, get priority. However, all dairy farmers must remember that it is their responsibility, to avoid a fine, to make every effort to remain under quota whatever their situation,” he concluded.