SPEAKING following a meeting with senior officials of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr John Comer, Deputy President and Chairperson of ICMSA’s Farm Services and Environment Committee, said that the current terms and conditions undoubtedly discriminate against small and existing milk producers and need to be amended to level the playing field amongst farmers.
While acknowledging that the Department had moved the production units qualification downwards, Mr Comer said that the facts remain that the Department proposal, just in respect of milk, would exclude about 4,400 dairy farmers and leave new entrants needing only 40 production units to qualify while existing dairy farmers will require 80 production units. In addition, the weighting given to cost per litre means that the larger your milk quota, the greater the weighting you will receive.
Mr Comer said that the selection criteria proposed by the Department incontrovertibly favoured new entrants into milk over existing suppliers and greatly diminished the prospects of existing farmers receiving the grant.
“The Department’s selection criteria would ensure that in nearly every circumstance existing small and medium dairy farmers will be behind new entrants in terms of priority.”
He went on to say that the total exclusion of farmers based on size is unacceptable and that the ‘tranche’ system being operated on the insistence of the EU Commission will create confusion with farmers not knowing when, if ever, they will qualify for a grant.
“It is ICMSA’s view that the Minister should publish the list of requirements for the scheme as well as the weightings given to each selection criteria and all farmers should be informed immediately if they will qualify for a grant before 2013 and dispense entirely with this ‘tranche’ system. It was an absolutely fundamental requirement of any sense of fairness that existing milk producers should receive equal priority with new entrants,” concluded Mr Comer.