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Minister to Fight for Dairy Support at EU Commissioner Meeting

01 September 2015

UK - Northern Ireland's Agriculture Minister has said she has been disappointed with recent EU responses to the dairy crisis and will continue to fight dairy farmers' case in Brussels.

EU-wide agriculture ministers are due to meet for a much-anticipated summit on 7 September. Northern Ireland's Michelle O'Neill confirmed that she will be meeting with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on 1 September in Brussels ahead of the special Agricultural Council meeting.

Ms O'Neill said that the Commissioner's position was no longer sustainable.

Addressing dairy farmers at the Ulster Farmers’ Union Dairy Stakeholder Summit, Minister O’Neill said: "I share your concerns with the current situation in the dairy sector, which has been caused by a global crisis and a range of factors, many of which are outside our control and cannot be solved at a local level.

"I have listened to those concerns raised by farming groups and individuals. From Dec 2014 I have been actively engaged with the industry and I asked the banks to show more understanding and flexibility.

"I have persistently called on Commissioner Phil Hogan to review the intervention price. I have been disappointed with his response to date and I believe his position is not sustainable. Europe cannot continue to ignore the plight of farmers here in the north.

"I recently led a delegation with the UFU and Dairy UK to meet British Secretary of State Liz Truss and other devolved ministers to call for their support in raising the intervention price and to highlight the unique circumstances faced by our farmers.

"For my part I will continue to press Commissioner Phil Hogan for timely and effective support for farmers.

"At a local level my staff at CAFRE, in recognition of the cash flow pressures on dairy farms, have held workshops and training events throughout the Spring and Summer. Attended by over 800 people, they dealt with the specific issues of cost control, technical efficiency, benchmarking and business management.

"It is important that farmers come forward to avail of the advice available and also talk to their banks. CAFRE have planned a further series of workshops throughout the autumn in conjunction with other partners.

"I am firmly of the view that dealing with these challenges will only be successful if we work together, that means producers, processors, their representatives, banks, government here and in Westminster and in Europe."

TheCattleSite News Desk

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