Milk suppliers call for major lobby to protect farm sector on three fronts

THE Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association has called for a major coordinated lobbying effort to protect the country’s agricultural sector from threats on three fronts.

It said there had rarely been so many critical issues for decision, with so much riding on Ireland’s ability to defend its interests.

It described the report of the European Commission’s High Level Group on Milk, the future of the single farm payment and the potential impact on the beef sector from any bilateral trade deal with Mercosur, which groups Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, as vital.

ICMSA deputy president John Comer, who met with Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith in Brussels earlier this week, said any one of these issues would necessitate a concentrated effort by the Government. But activity on all three fronts now demanded an unprecedented effort in terms of co-ordination and lobbying. Mr Comer said the threat to the beef sector posed by Mercosu is bilateral in nature as opposed to the all-encompassing world trade talks.

He said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s support for an agreement was most improper as he did not have the political authority or legal base to negotiate any such deal.

Mr Comer said he was confident France would be able to ‘see off’ any such deal but Paris should be assured of Ireland’s support at every stage.

On the question of the single farm payment, he said farmers would particularly welcome Mr Smith’s assurance to an ICMSA delegation that Ireland would be concentrating on securing the maximum budget.

Pointing out that the picture was darker when discussions turned to the dairy sector, he said the minister had assured the ICMSA that market supports would still be available after the abolition of quotas post 2015.

Mr Comer argued, however, that the instruments available would prove wholly inadequate to the task required.

He urged Mr Smith to remember the circumstances that had led to the catastrophic milk price collapse right throughout 2009.

Mr Comer said the ICMSA would continue to press for a sensible and prudent supply- management system that would try to avoid the spikes and collapses over the last two years.


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