€18m boost for dairy farmers

BETTER dairy farming in order to compete and cope with severe milk price swings is the objective of an €18 million, three-year dairy efficiency programme announced by Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith.

He said €6m will be made available in each of 2010, 2011 and 2012 to encourage participation by the country’s 18,000 dairy farmers.

The programme, placing particular emphasis on adoption of best practice in relation to grassland management, breeding and financial management, will be open to existing or new members of discussion groups, which will be assisted by facilitators trained by Teagasc. Participants’ progress will be monitored by the facilitators (who can be Teagasc advisers or private service providers), and participants must meet certain attendance and project completion standards.

In return, they will receive payments at the end of each year, with the level of payment determined by their participation rate. The payments can be made after December 1 each year, and will be in the form of an SFP top-up – which could give rise to the application of modulation above the €5,000 payment threshold.

The programme will be up-and-running as early as possible in 2010.

All those interested must submit an application form to their discussion group facilitator by Friday, February 19, 2010 (the form can be downloaded at the www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/dairy/dairyefficiencyprogramme.

A full list of accredited facilitators will be published at the end of January to enable farmers not already members of discussion groups to make contact and proceed with group formation. Facilitators will charge a privately agreed fee to each discussion group member.

A maximum of 20 members per discussion group is recommended. Facilitators will notify the single farm payment unit at the department of the composition of each discussion group by March 5, and will also be responsible for certifying group members have participated to the required standard.

* A dairy farmer must have a permanent milk quota entitlement, and be active in producing and delivering milk.

* A producer can nominate a third party to attend discussion group meetings on his or her behalf, either due to temporary inability or practical arrangements for running the farm.

* Discussion groups must hold 12 monthly meetings, of which the programme participants must attend at least eight in 2010, and nine in subsequent years, and must host at least one group meeting over the three-year period of the programme.

* Upon joining a discussion group, participants must prepare a five-year plan, and complete specific projects. In each year, they must complete a summer wedge, and prepare an autumn grass management plan.

* In year two, they must also complete a spring rotation planner and return calving and health events information to ICBF.

* In year three, completion of the teagasc profit monitor or its equivalent is an additional duty.

* Discussion group activities normally include farm walks on the farms of participants, attendance at Teagasc Moorepark open days, and visits to research farms.


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