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Farmers angry at fines

Farmers angry at lactose fines

Anton McNulty

MAYO dairy farmers, angry at penalties introduced by NCF Connacht Gold over the lactose levels in milk, have called for the milk sent to the co-op to be independently tested.
Dairy farmers are angry they were only given five days’ notice to increase the lactose content in the milk or face heavy fines if the milk did not meet the criteria. Penalties can be as high as 30 cent a litre and farmers do not know whether the milk is lactose acceptable until it is tested by Connacht Gold
Mr John Comer, Chairman of Mayo ICMSA, who chaired a meeting attended by up to 300 farmers in the Belmont Hotel, Knock last week, told The Mayo News that there was great anxiety among farmers who felt the approach taken by Connacht Gold was not acceptable.
“There is a huge proportion of farmers left with bills owing to the Co-op and there is a huge amount of anxiety.
“There are about 200-300 farmers close to the levels and they do not get the results until the milk is gone and they have to wait days and days unsure if they are going to get paid at all.
“The anxiety levels being built up amongst dairy farmers in Connacht is unbelievable. At the meeting we looked for some sort of independent testing because it is so serious now you can end up getting a big bill and you need to restore farmers’ confidence. You cannot have the man paying for the milk testing for the milk,” he said
Connacht Gold told farmers they lost up to €250,000 last year due to the lactose content and have said this is the reason for introducing penalties for low levels of lactose in the milk. The ICMSA say that they understand the predicament Connacht Gold are facing and farmers are looking to achieve the same result.
The regulations were introduced on November 1 and one farmer was fined €1,800 of his milk cheque in the weeks just before Christmas.