29 March 2002

Irish can woo neighbours

IRISH dairy farmers are to be allowed to set up partnerships with their neighbours for the first time, following an amendment to the quota regulations.

"A milk production partnership comprises the pooled quotas, lands, facilities and herds of two producers," explains a department of agriculture statement.

"With the exception of some specialist enterprises, all aspects of the farms must be combined, but the partners will continue to have access to milk quota in their own right."

Farm minister, Joe Walsh, said the development was aimed at getting the best returns from investment in dairying and was an important part of his drive to boost competitiveness.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association dairy chairman, Jackie Cahill, said the move was "progressive". "Genuine partnerships represent a mechanism to release economies of scale, allow shortages of labour to be overcome, address elements of unsociable working hours and encourage young people into the dairy sector."

But the Irish Farmers Association says there are still technical details to be addressed, including how to sort out area aid, suckler cow quota and cattle premium claims. It also fails to cater for existing partnerships between members of the same family, which could benefit from the new legal framework. &#42