TJ Flanagan, CEO, ICOS; Zoë Kavanagh, CEO, NDC and Spokesperson for the European Milk Forum in Ireland; Billy Kelleher, MEP for Ireland South; Karina Pierce, Professor of Dairy Production, UCD and Christy Doherty, Head of Agriculture AXA Insurance at the Fine-tuning Irish Dairy conference in the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Little Island, Cork on June 8, 2023.
Picture: Alison Miles / OSM PHOTO
This year’s Fine-Tuning Irish Dairy Conference gathered an engaging mix of industry experts and thought leaders to discuss the challenges facing Irish dairy farming, from reduced stocking rates to nitrates restrictions and Irish dairy’s social licence to produce. Ireland’s 17,500 dairy farmers produce high quality dairy produce which is exported to 191 countries with an €6.2 billion contribution to the economy.
The event – which took place today, June 8 in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Little Island, Cork – is now in its fifth year and was kindly sponsored by AXA Insurance, the National Dairy Council (NDC) and Enjoy, It’s From Europe.
Speakers at this full-day conference included: Billy Kelleher MEP; Karina Pierce, Professor of Dairy Production, UCD; Michael Farrelly, Executive Director at the FTMTA; TJ Flanagan, CEO, ICOS; and Denis Drennan, Deputy President, ICMSA; Zoë Kavanagh, CEO at the National Dairy Council and spokesperson for the European Milk Forum, as well as dairy farmers Joe Deane, Victor O’Sullivan and Mike Magan.
Opening the conference, Billy Kelleher, MEP, stressed the challenges facing the industry – and Ireland’s farming communities – today: “The Irish dairy industry is facing many headwinds over the short to medium term. With pressure coming due to the Nitrates derogation, the Industrial Emissions Direction and possible changes to the Animal Transport Regulation, the industry must be proactive in how it addresses them, and not shy away from reasonable change.
“Dairy farmers are exceptionally innovative, creative and hard-working, they can, if they put their minds to it, meet these challenges head on, and continue to prosper and drive on our rural communities.”
Dairy farmer, Joe Deane commented on the importance of Government support for the industry’s efforts in tackling climate action: “There is great opportunity for dairy farmers in Ireland to run highly profitable and sustainable businesses going forward, once we are not strangled with regulation before new science and technology has the chance to be implemented to combat the challenges facing the industry, such as nitrates and climate change. It is very important that the farming organisations and the Government fight hard in Europe for the retention of our derogation at 250kg N /ha. If given more time, farmers can continue to help to improve water quality.”
Victor O’Sullivan, dairy farmer, stressed the need for joined-up thinking between scientists, farmers and policy makers: “A significant challenge for the future will be maintaining political support regarding the issues of water quality and emissions. The science involved does yield favourable results for Irish dairy farmers; what will have an impact is the political will to back the science.”
Christy Doherty, Head of Agriculture at AXA Insurance, said: “AXA Farm Insurance is delighted to once again sponsor the Fine-Tuning Irish Dairy Conference, a timely and astute gathering of experts, thought leaders and farmers aiming to address the challenges facing the Irish dairy industry.”
Zoë Kavanagh, CEO at the National Dairy Council and spokesperson for the European Milk Forum said: “The European Milk Forum is delighted to participate in the Fine-tuning Irish Dairy Conference 2023. Farmers are the driving force behind quality products that people want to purchase and are a key part of a healthy, modern lifestyle – the demand for which just keeps increasing – and yet, as an industry, what we are doing in the area of sustainability simply is not being recognised. The Fine-tuning Irish Dairy Conference provides a platform to highlight the need for Irish dairy to communicate with concerned citizens and reassure them that the sector is fully committed to delivering an even more sustainable production system. The National Dairy Council wants to shine a light on biodiversity and environmental considerations at farm level, demonstrating how dairy producers provide premium food to domestic and international consumers. Now, more than ever, it is important to show all the hard work and innovation that is happening within the Irish and European farming industry.”