Cover Story AUGUST 2018 Pat McCormack is only seven months in the job of ICMSA president and is well acquainted with the multiplicity of challenges facing Irish farming. Here he talks to Matt O’Kee e about these challenges, including the recent drought in mid July The challenges of ICMSA leadership Milk price deficiency Pat McCormack is critical of milk pricing policy: “Milk price was in the wrong place, particularly during April and May. The price lift for June milk supplies was late coming, but welcome nonetheless. It’s quite clear from the Ornua Price Index that a return to producers of 33 cents per litre is justifiable. Milk price over the coming months is hugely important as there have been significant extra costs associated with the drought. Merchant credit is very high and will have to be paid. The entire industry needs to take cognisance of where the primary producer is positioned right now.” Scope for further price increases By his own admission, Pat McCormack is ‘a bit of a pessimist’. However this does not mean that he cannot see a silver lining in the current dairy market: “While international milk supplies earlier in the year were strong, they declined due to weather conditions in early summer. So there is room for further upward price movement in the coming months. That milk price sentiment has to be reflected in farm gate prices, especially given the costs endured by producers in recent months.” The Tipperary-based farm leader has a definite opinion on the drive to increase milk production on Irish dairy farms: 14 “When I was elected there was a general expectation that the biggest and most immediate challenges would come from the ongoing debate over the shape of the next Common Agricultural policy, along with the impact of Brexit on Irish agriculture. However, extreme weather conditions have become the most pressing issues facing farmers, placing them under enormous financial, physical and psychological pressures.” Pat is under no illusions as to the grave situation many farmers find themselves in: “A lot of next winter’s fodder has already been eaten and that is really worrying. We have lobbied Government for an extension of fertiliser spreading dates this autumn to facilitate the production of as much extra forage as possible. These are exceptional circumstances that require exceptional decisionmaking by Government as well as farmers.” The ICMSA emphasises that farmers need to stay in a positive mindframe: “There was an awful lot of silage used last autumn, before winter even began. Ultimately, we survived the extended winter and spring with only minimal importation of fodder, despite all the publicity around fodder imports. If we get a reasonable autumn, we can stretch our fodder resources to make up shortfalls. Farmers will need to plan ahead in terms of livestock numbers and available forage to cope with a unique situation.”