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Unspent SPS funds to generate efficiencies in dairy sector

- Smith announces new programme to support technology and knowledge transfer -

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today announced a new three-year Dairy Efficiency Programme under which €18 million will be spent in encouraging significant efficiency gains on Irish dairy farms. The Programme will support the transfer to milk producers of technology and knowledge that will help them to adopt best practice in the running of their enterprises.

 The Minister said: "The dairy industry, while open to great opportunities, faces also   many challenges as it prepares for quota abolition and the realities of competing in a global marketplace. At producer level the focus must be on maximising efficiency in order to compete and to cope with periods of severe volatility like that which we have recently experienced. The Government's commitment to the development of the Smart Economy is therefore as relevant to dairying as it is to any other sector of the economy. Initiatives like the Dairy Efficiency Programme exemplify that commitment, and indeed are vital in ensuring that the fine work being done in agricultural colleges around the country is carried through to full-time careers in farming."

Commenting further on the programme, the Minister indicated that €6 million will be made available in each of 2010, 2011 and 2012 to encourage the participation by dairy farmers in this programme. The groups which will operate under the programme will be formed and assisted by facilitators who have been trained by Teagasc to a FETAC-accredited standard, will place particular emphasis on the adoption of best practice in relation to grassland management, breeding and financial management. Participants in the programme will have their progress monitored by their facilitator, and they will be required to meet certain standards in relation to attendance and project completion. In return they will receive a payment at the end of each year, with the level of payment determined by the participation rate in the Programme.

"The availability of unspent Single Payment Scheme funds arising from the Health Check agreement provides an opportunity to further reinforce the initiatives I have undertaken to help the dairy industry to look to the future with optimism. I have no hesitation in grasping that opportunity. The Dairy Efficiency Programme will complement the innovative approach already taken to the Milk Quota Trading Scheme, to the modernisation of the milk quota regulations, to the encouragement of Milk Production Partnerships, to the allocation of quota to new entrants and to the support of future-oriented dairy research. Indeed it will act as a direct conduit of the vital information emerging from research undertakings like the Greenfield Dairy Project that I announced my support for only last week. The transfer of information and data in relation to efficiencies and best practice to as many farmers as possible is essential to support the dairy sector."

Concluding, the Minister said that further details in relation to the Dairy Efficiency Programme will be made available shortly and that the Programme will be up-and-running as early as possible in 2010.

Date Released: 16 December 2009