Farmers should be given access to grass-measuring equipment to help maximise Ireland’s competitive advantage from grass-fed dairy production, Macra na Feirme has said.
The young farmer group says the equipment would help the dairy sector reach the grass and grassland management targets outlined in Food Wise, the Government’s strategy document for agri-food production.
“The provision of grass- measuring equipment would certainly benefit young farmers,” said Macra president Seán Finan.
“The provision of both an additional top-up and grass- measuring instruments would assist new entrants and young farmers to ride out the price crisis and focus on optimising efficiency from grass,” he said.
Macra says the Dairy Forum, put together by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, is a welcome step to discuss the issues impacting the dairy industry.
The group says young farmers in particular need extra support from the €13.7m in EU funding aimed at easing current income challenges.
“Young farmers are worst affected and under the most pressure from the current pressure on milk price as some are heavily borrowed and in most cases they have not had the opportunity to build up their resources over the last few years that more established operators have and don’t have the means to deal with volatility we are witnessing at the moment,” said Seán Finan.
The Macra leader said a portion of the EU Commission aid package for the dairy sector should be targeted at young farmers in the format of a top-up payment together with the provision of grass measuring instruments to meet Food Wise objectives.
Macra outlined its proposal in detail at the dairy stakeholder forum.
Mr Finan said: “The existing EU package of €13.7m should be fully co-founded and a portion targeted specifically at young farmers and new entrants to dairying who are among the most vulnerable in the current milk price drop.”
Macra is calling for the Government to put in place an income volatility bond to protect farmers against price volatility.
It is also calling on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to clarify what part of state aid rules preclude this from happening.
Meanwhile, IFA president Eddie Downey has told the Oireachtas joint committee on agriculture the end of 31 years of quota creates a real opportunity for Irish dairy.
He said Ireland’s cost-competitive, grass-based production system is ideally placed to supply fast-growing global demand for high quality, sustainably produced dairy products and ingredients.
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