Written answers

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Milk Quota Cessation

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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104. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proposals he has put to the new EU Agricultural Commissioner to deal with the serious difficulties facing many dairy farmers due to impending super levy penalties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42660/14]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy is aware, the superlevy fine is set by milk quota Regulations agreed at EU level. Given that fact, it is not possible for me on a unilateral basis to change that rate without the agreement of both the Commission and all other Member States. At each Agriculture Council over the last year 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 improvement 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 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 for 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. In this regard, I am organising a major dairy conference on November 19 next to assess our readiness for quota abolition and to take stock of the current challenges and opportunities facing the sector.


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