The Dáíl is set to debate a bill to repeal the dairy union’s controversial ban on using cows for human consumption, with opposition TDs supporting the move and a number of Labour and Fine Gael TDs opposing it.
The Irish Independent has learned that a number TDs, including Micheál Martin, Catherine Byrne and Fintan O’Toole, are likely to vote against the bill, which would see farmers pay a fine of up to €1m ($1.6m) if they fail to abide by the ban on milk and cheese production.
The move has been backed by a number trade unions, including the Irish Dairy Farmers Union, which claims that the ban has cost the industry billions of euros.
The bill, if passed, would also see the dairy industry banned from exporting any milk produced in Ireland.
The Dáilias Agriculture and Food, Food Processing and Allied Industries committee will debate the bill in its first sitting of the year on Wednesday, October 4.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs said it was aware of the issue.
“There are several ways in which the Government will be able to ensure that Irish dairy farms do not continue to operate without having to pay fines for failing to comply with the ban,” it said.
“The bill includes a number that will require a change to existing legislation, such as the requirement that dairy farms operate within the current legal framework.”
The DAAB said it would provide further information on the bill at the first sitting.
It is understood that a majority of the committee will support the bill but that there will be a large number of Fine Gael and Labour TDs who are likely, as well as independents, to vote for the ban.
Labour’s Sean Kelly and Fianna Fáil’s Catherine Byrne are also expected to vote in favour of the bill.
The Fine Gael party has been pushing for the legislation to be passed and a spokesperson for the party said: “It is absolutely essential that the Irish dairy industry operates in a way that protects farmers from fines.
The ban on cows for milk and cheeses is a clear example of a regulatory failure that has resulted in thousands of jobs lost and billions of pounds of economic losses to the dairy sector.”
Fine Gael’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the bill “does not go far enough” in stopping farmers from making a profit and urged the Government to change the law.
In a letter to the DDAB in January, the Government said it did not want the ban to go into effect until the dairy farmers had been subject to the ban for at least three years.”
There are other measures that would make the dairy system more efficient and secure and it is in the public interest that we bring forward measures that will make sure that we continue to benefit from the dairy economy in Ireland.”
In a letter to the DDAB in January, the Government said it did not want the ban to go into effect until the dairy farmers had been subject to the ban for at least three years.
In April last year, the Dóidhlig Farmers’ Union wrote to the Government asking for a delay on the legislation until it could “assess the impact of the ban” on the dairy market.
In the letter, the union said the ban would have a “negative impact on the market and on the Irish farming industry”.
“The ban on the sale of dairy products to non-farmers is the most restrictive dairy export restriction in the EU, and is a very significant barrier to Irish farmers from exporting their milk and butter to the EU market,” the letter said.
It added that the restriction was “one of the most burdensome restrictions on Irish farmers” and that the importation of milk and dairy products into the EU had increased in the past year.
In response, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, David Connolly, said he was committed to seeing the bill through, adding that he would be seeking to amend the legislation as soon as possible.
“I have already made a commitment to amend this legislation to allow a new import and export ban on dairy products, including milk and cream, to be imposed,” he said.