As the Deputy is aware my Department will no longer have any direct involvement in milk supply management after 31 March 2015 when the Milk Quota regime ends. At that point supply will be a matter between the producer and the purchaser and, subject to contractual arrangements with milk purchasers, beef farmers or others who wish to switch to dairying, will be unconstrained by the quota system.
My Department has in recent years operated a number of support measures to facilitate beef and other farmers who wish to change to dairying.
These include the allocation to new entrants of 14 million litres of milk quota per annum, that is one quarter of the 1% quota increase allocated to Ireland under the Commission’s Milk Quota transition arrangements. To date 56 million litres have been allocated to just over 300 new entrants and a further 14 million litres will be allocated to about 75 applicants this autumn.
In addition, at the beginning of the year my Department introduced a new Development Programme for Dairying, which was aimed at new entrants to dairying among others, to encourage them to join local Dairy Discussion Groups. Earlier Department support for such groups under the Dairy Efficiency Programmes has shown these gatherings to be a very effective method of information transfer. My Department also operates a Dairy Equipment Grant Scheme, which has among its objectives the encouragement of new entrants in dairying by providing them with support to meet capital costs associated with establishment of their enterprise. New entrants must have a minimum number of production units in order to be eligible. In addition Teagasc run a series of courses aimed specifically for new entrants to dairying.
As milk quotas and the current phase of the CAP come to a close, my Department is at present engaged in a consultation and evaluation process to determine the measures that might be co-financed under the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) that will run to 2020. While this exercise is still ongoing, I expect that support for new entrants to dairying after April 2015 will be among the items that will be discussed.