Former agriculture minister, Brendan Smith, has said that Irish farmers need to receive sustainable prices as a priority – now and into the future.

Speaking at the recent 50th anniversary event for Teemore Engineering, the Cavan-Monaghan TD specifically highlighted the pressure on dairy farmgate returns at the present time.

“Obviously, the Irish government cannot step in and directly support farmer prices,” he said.

“What’s happening within the milk sector at the present time is typical of the cyclical trends that impact on food commodity markets around the world.

“We have seen the same pressures impacting on pig, beef, poultry and lamb markets over recent years.

“Under these circumstances, it’s important for all the sectors within the farming food chain to come together and deliver the highest possible levels of stability for farmers.”

Turning to the upcoming budget, Smith confirmed the need for the Irish government to address the challenges posed by the new nitrates regulations.

He specifically highlighted the requirement for tillage farmers to be put on a ‘level playing field’ when it comes to leasing the land they need to sustain their businesses.

“The government can look at relevant tax measures in two ways,” he said.

“First off, all the current tax exemptions that are in place for farmers must be retained. And if further changes to the current tax landscape can be looked at, as a means of supporting farm businesses, these should also be examined.”

Smith was joined by Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) agriculture spokesman, Tom Elliott, at the Teemore event.

The Fermanagh – South Tyrone MLA is urging dairy farmers, milk processers and animal feed companies to work closely together over the coming months.

He made the call against the expectation of further pressure coming on international milk markets over the coming months.

“There is little prospect of dairy markets improving before the end of this year,” Elliott said.

“Given this challenging scenario, it is important for milk processers and meal companies to be mindful of the pressures that are already coming on dairy farmer margins.

“Obviously, milk producers will have no option to tighten their belts. But, in truth, it really is a case of everyone involved within the dairy sector cooperating in the most effective way possible.

“Dairy markets will strengthen again; the problem is that no one is in a position to predict when this will happen.”

“The milk industry has been here before on a number of occasions. The sector has always rebounded, bigger and better. I am in no doubt that such will be the case again.”