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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Look what happened in the Netherlands – Hogan warns Irish dairy sector on environment

EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan
EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Phil Hogan has warned the Irish dairy sector that it must maintain its reputation for producing products of the highest standards of safety and sustainability.

Speaking INTL FCStone dairy conference recently, he said that broadly speaking, the European dairy sector has a good story to tell, and good prospects for the future.

But went on to say that “we have to be honest about the potential pitfalls that lie ahead”.

Hogan said the appealing image of dairy cows eating grass in wide open fields is a very successful selling point for Irish products.

However, he said if that reputation for quality and sustainability is compromised in any way, there is a clear and present danger of a negative market impact.

“I have used the Netherlands as a cautionary example in Ireland before, and for good reason.

“The Dutch dairy industry has been dealing with an ongoing phosphate problem which has resulted in the reduction of the Dutch dairy herd by around 122,000 cows over nine months, with a consequent reduction in phosphate and nitrates production.

“Currently, Dutch milk supply has fallen by 1.5pc,” he said.

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Hogan warned that building a more sustainable foundation in relation to inputs “is not a choice: it is a must”.

Ireland and all other EU MS need to get the balance right under the Nitrates Directive and the Water Framework Directive, he said and added that failure to act now will lead to negative consequences in the near future – “potentially very negative consequences,” he warned.

Read also: The Dutch dairy dilemma - How dairy farmers in the Netherlands are coping with new phosphates regulations

CAP payments

Hogan also spoke on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and said that despite the difficult budgetary context of Brexit and other new EU challenges such as security and migration, the Commission has proposed a strong budget for agriculture.

“Direct payments to farmers are cut moderately by no more than 4%.

“This reduction is complemented with a proposal to achieve greater equity in direct payments per hectare, by means of continued convergence, degressivity and capping,” he said.

Hogan highlighted that the direct payments envelope for Ireland in the next budget is €8.15 billion, a reduction of 3.9pc compared to the 2020 baseline allocation.

For rural development, he said the Commission proposes to rebalance EU and national support, so that public support to European rural areas remains largely unchanged.

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