Government and EU failing our dairy farmers – SMITH

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil T.D. Brendan Smith has expressed his disappointment with a reply by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to a Parliamentary Question he tabled in Dáil Éireann regarding the need to assist dairy farmers facing super levy penalties.

Deputy Smith had asked the Minister if he put forward proposals at the most recent meeting of the EU Agriculture Council regarding the serious difficulties facing many dairy farmers due to impending super levy penalties, the outcome of such discussions and if he would make a statement on the matter.

Minister Coveney replied as follows – As the Deputy is aware, this issue has been the subject of much discussion at EU level over the recent past. The superlevy is set by milk quota Regulations agreed at EU level. Any amendment to the regime requires a proposal from the Commission and agreement of a qualified majority of all other Member States. At numerous Agriculture Council meetings over the recent past the issue of additional measures to ensure a ‘soft landing’ to milk quota abolition in 2015 was discussed. I, and some other like-minded Ministers, consistently called on the Commission to take action to ease the burden of the super levy in the final year of the quota regime but such an agreement was not forthcoming at the time and this remains the case. As there is no common position at the Council of Agriculture Ministers such an adjustment looks unlikely to be achieved.

It must be clearly noted that a number of other countries are opposed to any action on this and have sought to link the issue to possible measures to regulate supply after quotas are gone. I am obviously resolutely opposed to any talk of supply controls after quota abolition next April on the basis that these quotas have only served to shackle Irish farmers over the last 30 years. The resultant stalemate means there is insufficient support for any change to the regulations and no agreement has been possible. The current Italian presidency agreed to consider the issue at their first Council meeting in July, it was again discussed in October and I fully expect that the issue will remain high on the agenda for discussion at future Councils, including December, where I will continue to seek to have the matter progressed in a way that is fair to both Irish and EU dairy farmers.

In preparing their enterprises for the post quota era, I have at all times urged that farmers have regard to the fact that milk quotas would remain in place until April 2015, along with the associated superlevy regime, and I would take this opportunity today to reiterate this call. I would again urge farmers to use the time period between now and the removal of milk quotas to identify, with their dairy adviser, steps to manage both their milk supply and their dairy herds so that they have an efficient herd as they enter the post quota era”, stated Minister Coveney.

Deputy Smith commented that surely this is an opportune time with a new Agriculture Commissioner and the EU as a whole being under quota to implement measures so that farmers who are over quota at the end of March should not have serious financial penalties imposed on them entering a new era for milk production with the abolition of milk quota. He added that this is an issue that Minister Coveney must make progress on without further delay.

Parliamentary Question No. 98

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he put forward proposals at the most recent meeting of the EU Agriculture Council regarding the serious difficulties facing many dairy farmers due to impending super levy penalties; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 27th November, 2014.

Ref No: 45750/14

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)

As the Deputy is aware, this issue has been the subject of much discussion at EU level over the recent past. The superlevy is set by milk quota Regulations agreed at EU level. Any amendment to the regime requires a proposal from the Commission and agreement of a qualified majority of all other Member States. At numerous Agriculture Council meetings over the recent past the issue of additional measures to ensure a ‘soft landing’ to milk quota abolition in 2015 was discussed. I, and some other like-minded Ministers, consistently called on the Commission to take action to ease the burden of the super levy in the final year of the quota regime but such an agreement was not forthcoming at the time and this remains the case. As there is no common position at the Council of Agriculture Ministers such an adjustment looks unlikely to be achieved.

It must be clearly noted that a number of other countries are opposed to any action on this and have sought to link the issue to possible measures to regulate supply after quotas are gone. I am obviously resolutely opposed to any talk of supply controls after quota abolition next April on the basis that these quotas have only served to shackle Irish farmers over the last 30 years. The resultant stalemate means there is insufficient support for any change to the regulations and no agreement has been possible. The current Italian presidency agreed to consider the issue at their first Council meeting in July, it was again discussed in October and I fully expect that the issue will remain high on the agenda for discussion at future Councils, including December, where I will continue to seek to have the matter progressed in a way that is fair to both Irish and EU dairy farmers.

In preparing their enterprises for the post quota era, I have at all times urged that farmers have regard to the fact that milk quotas would remain in place until April 2015, along with the associated superlevy regime, and I would take this opportunity today to reiterate this call. I would again urge farmers to use the time period between now and the removal of milk quotas to identify, with their dairy adviser, steps to manage both their milk supply and their dairy herds so that they have an efficient herd as they enter the post quota era.

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