Dairy farms failing hygiene standards get final warnings

MILK producers with sub-standard farmyards are being spared the difficult choice between getting out of farming in 2004 or in 2005.

They have received final warnings from co-ops that their milk won't be collected, because the farmyard facilities are not up to required hygiene standards.

Some of the farmers hoped to hand on in milk production to 2005, when they could give up and still qualify for the decoupled dairy premium of up to 16.6c per gallon.

But the few diehards who delayed the farmyard improvements required under Irish and EU hygiene regulations look likely to be forced out of production this year. They will have to sell their quotas this year and forego the decoupled compensation premium.

Processors say very few milk producers have yet to comply with the required standards, and they are mainly older farmers close to retirement.

"There are a few suppliers who plan getting out of milk production and have been weighing up their options in the light of the changes in direct payments and the decoupling of compensation for dairy farmers, as to when they will cease dairy farming", explained a spokesman for one of the large milk processors.

Under the 92/46 EEC Directive on Dairy Hygiene, responsibility for inspection of dairy farms for compliance with standards transferred last year from the Department of Agriculture to the processors.

Milk producers can expect to have a full inspection of their premises every one to two years, to ensure that standards are being maintained.

The number of suppliers not meeting the standards in West Cork, who have received final warnings that their milk won't be collected, has reached double figures.

But Dairygold Co-op say "there is no serious issue" on compliance by their suppliers.

Kerry Co-op said their suppliers are 100% compliant with the regulations, after a lot of work had been put in by both the co-op and farmers to reach higher standards.

A spokesperson for Glanbia said all their suppliers have met the required standard, and monitoring of suppliers will be on-going to ensure that standards are maintained.

Dairy farmers must comply with a wide range of regulations on the siting of their farms, construction of the dairy, cleanliness and facilities. The farmer is also required to provide independent certification on the quality of the water supply to the dairy.

A number of farms have had to provide new water sources, before certification could be provided.

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