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Co-ops 'will determine production milk rights'

Future milk production rights were more likely to be based on co-op shareholding than on current supplies, former IFA president Padraig Walshe told a major conference in Cork last week.

Mr Walshe said speculation was unfounded that buying additional quota would give farmers greater production rights post-2015.

He said the price being paid for milk quota at the moment was too high and farmers needed to be very careful.

Mr Walshe told the the Irish Grassland Association (IGA) dairy conference that he saw no justification for the "uneconomic" prices being paid for milk quota.

The former IFA leader, who is also a past president of the IGA, made the comments when taking part in a question and answers forum with seven past presidents of the IGA.

On the question of dairy sector reform, Mike Magan said the current structure of the industry was too fragmented and disjointed.

"There are too many people trying to defend their own patch," Mr Magan said.

He congratulated Kevin Twomey, of the Dairy Discussion Groups of Ireland, on his efforts to promote greater consolidation within the dairy industry.

West Cork farmer William Kingston told the conference that access to finance remained a major roadblock to significant growth in the dairy sector.

He said chattel mortgages, based on the value of farmers' livestock, was one possible option for financing expansion.

An ACC representative in the audience said the bank was looking at the option of such mortgages.

However, it was pointed out that banks had bad experiences with farmers in the past when such finance arrangements went wrong.

There were also calls for some imaginative tax incentives to be introduced to encourage land mobility and make long-term leases more attractive to land owners.

Mr Walshe warned that the proposals from the EU Commission to introduce an area-based single farm payment meant that "armchair" farmers were likely to remain part of the Irish farming landscape.

Teagasc researcher Padraig French said any continuation of the derogation on nitrogen spreading levels would be dependent on the scientific argument that Teagasc puts forward.

"If we can prove that water quality has improved on Irish farms then we have a good chance of holding the derogation," Mr French said.

Meanwhile, the quality of graduates from agricultural colleges was also discussed, with some speakers bemoaning the huge variation in their competence.

Mr Kingston said greater emphasis on stockmanship was needed in student training but Laois farmer Jim O'Dwyer argued that students did not have sufficient technical and theoretical farming knowledge.

Indo Farming