Smith in move to encourage new entrants to dairy farming

A MAJOR new initiative to encourage new entrants to dairy farming was announced yesterday by Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith.

It forms part of the allocation of the first of five annual increases of 1% in milk quotas agreed under the so-called “health check” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform. One quarter of the increase (about 13.5 million litres) will be set aside for the initiative aimed at attracting new entrants into milk production.

The balance will be allocated as a 0.75% increase in quota on a permanent, saleable basis for every producer active on April 1, 2009.

Mr Smith said he had listened carefully to the views expressed by farmers’ representatives in recent months on how to achieve the maximum benefit from the first 1% increase in quotas. He was also mindful of the context in which this increase takes place. “It follows a 2% increase in April 2008, and is accompanied by the butterfat calculation adjustment that I secured last November which will deliver the equivalent of a further 2% increase in quotas in 2009,” he said.

Mr Smith said he had decided now is the time to make a bold move in support of new entrants to dairying. All in the sector are agreed that new entrants have a pivotal role to play in ensuring the future of the sector.

He said he was keen to build on the measures he implemented last year, including the opening up of participation in milk production partnerships.

“I therefore intend that 25% of the quota now being made available will be distributed to new entrants in a manner that will ensure that they can attain meaningful scale in a relatively short period of time,” he said.

Mr Smith said he envisages potential new entrants applying to his department for participation in the scheme and receiving an allocation of 200,000 litres of milk quota per applicant.

Welcoming the minister’s decision, Macra na Feirme president Catherine Buckley said it will benefit the industry by attracting much needed young people into it.

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