As the Deputy will be aware, I and my officials have been making consistent and ongoing efforts in recent months to secure a soft landing for all member states in the lead-up to milk quota abolition in 2015. These efforts have included close contacts with colleagues from the Netherlands, Denmark and other member states, as well as consultations with the Commission. Possible options include the front-loading of the remaining quota increases, a reduction in the super levy, a further reduction in butterfat correction levels, or a kind of EU flexi-milk arrangement which would operate provided EU production overall was within quota. I am aware this is the policy option the Deputy has been pursuing.
However, I must emphasise that the Commission has consistently resisted attempts to reconsider this issue, as it has resisted attempts to revisit the outcome of the 2008 health check agreement in an overall sense. It is also the case that only a minority of member states is likely to be adversely affected by the current quota restrictions and, therefore, persuading a qualified majority to agree to an adjustment of the current regime represents a significant challenge.
Irish dairy farmers must, therefore, continue to operate on the assumption that no further changes will be made to the milk quota arrangements agreed in the context of the CAP health check. This is extremely important, and I cannot emphasise the point strongly enough. Estimated milk deliveries in the 2010-11 milk quota year, which must still be confirmed, show that total butterfat-adjusted deliveries were just 0.43% under quota. Deliveries are also well ahead of quota in the first two months of this year, with the national position at the end of May nearly 5% over quota.
I agree with what the Deputy wants to do and we are trying to pursue that option. I have had a lot of informal discussions with my counterparts in different member states, including most recently with officials from Lithuania. I have also raised the issue informally with the Italian ambassador. We will continue to do that, but it is going to be a long process. We all have a responsibility to warn dairy farmers who are pressing ahead and producing milk over quota, on the assumption there will be some kind of political solution to the issue by the end of the year, that they are behaving in a dangerous way and that if they continue to produce over quota, as they are doing currently, we are likely to see a super levy and fines imposed on Ireland next year.