Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith has been accused of a ‘dereliction of duty’ with respect to dairy farmers according to the ICMSA’s Chairman in Waterford.

Tom Ahearne (pictured) said that Minister Smith’s refusal to support the growing demand from EU Member States to assist dairy farmers was a sad reflection on the Minister’s list of priorities.

Given the apparent apathy stemming from the Department of Architecture, the ICMSA has written to Taoiseach Brian Cowen to establish why the Government is “standing idly by” while dairy farmers’ fears intensify.

“The Minister and the Department’s fundamental commitment to the Irish dairy sector must now be openly questioned” said the Cappagh-based farmer.

“It is significant that for the first time in this dairy crisis, seriously-minded ministers (across the EU) have formally put forward proposals to raise the dairy intervention prices.

“This would actually bring about an increase in the price paid to farmers as opposed to merely halting the collapse in income.

He added: “However, for reasons best known to him, our Minister has decided to stand outside this group. Furthermore, these dissenting ministers now support increasing the scope and scale of export refunds which are vital to the Irish dairy sector.”

Mr Ahearne also linked Minister Smith and the New Zealand government’s stance which appears to favour “a globalised and unregulated ‘big bang’ type of milk production”.

Continued Tom Ahearne: “Even in the United States, where the sector in is the process of early slaughter to reduce milk production, the dominant opinion now is that there must be production control, which effectively means a quota system of the type the minister is so intent on dismantling here and across the EU.”

On a more positive note, the ICMSA’s contacts across Europe have suggested to Mr Ahearne of late that a change in Irish policy is imminent.

“This would represent a decisive development in forcing through a change in quota policy at Commission level, which is the news that 20,000 dairy farmers are waiting for on a daily basis,” he said.