ICMSA seek Nitrates Banding concessions on calves under 60 days and low protein nuts

Photo by Ries Bosch on Unsplash

The President of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, confirmed that the Association has approached the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine with proposals that will ease what he called the “ridiculous burden” that Banding will place on farmers, while in no way increasing overall or individual presence of N on farms.

Expressing his severe disappointment that Minister McConalogue seems to have decided to proceed with an unworkable system for this year and not announce a suspension, Mr McCormack said that the urgency of the situation compelled ICMSA to put proposals to the DAFM that would mitigate the worst effects of the Banding plans.

“We have to emphasise that we still think the Minister’s timeline is unworkable and would just remind everyone that the farmers who will be affected – and in many cases, ruined – by this proposal have still not received official correspondence as we head into March. But on the basis of trying to bring forward solutions to the problems caused by others, ICMSA is asking the Minister and his officials to exclude calves under 60 days from the farm’s N calculation. Calves of that age produce infinitesimal N and so the 24kgs of N from 0 to 6 months should be reduced accordingly.

That change would also have animal welfare benefits. We also suggest that where a farmer uses a low protein nut, they should get a credit for this under their N calculation. ICMSA said the science is stating that for every 1% reduction in protein, it is equivalent to 1 kg of N per cow. So if a farmer uses a 12% protein nut during the summer period and is in Band 2, then they should be allowed to use 88kgs of N per cow instead of 92kgs of N per cow. Such a move would also incentivise farmers to use a lower protein nut at times when it is appropriate to do so”, said Mr McCormack.

The first and best option available to the Minister is to suspend the introduction of Banding for this year and to set up the kind of ‘overview review’ that will allow all parties to get an informed idea of what is going to be an absolutely brutal and unjustified attack on family dairy farms and their incomes, said Mr McCormack.

“It’s worth remembering that this is going to be the first time since 1983 that dairy farmers will be forced to cut back production – many of the technically best dairy farmers in the world and who pose absolutely no risk to water quality”, he continued.

Mr McCormack said the Minister should suspend the Banding but if he is set on inflicting this kind of damage, then the very least he could do was look at the ICMSA’s two options to try and offset the most egregious damage done by this unfair and unworkable measure.