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Minister Coveney announces commencement of payments under the 2012 Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP)

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, today announced that payments under the 2012 Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP) will commence this week to eligible participants.  Payments amounting to €5 million to over 5,000 participants will be made this week.  Payment will continue to issue to other participants as their applications are fully processed.  “I am pleased to see that these payments have now begun to issue to the farmers concerned” the Minister said, adding “Participation in this Programme is hugely beneficial both for the individual farmers concerned and for the dairy sector as a whole”.

The DEP had as its principal aim the improvement of management practices, efficiency and ultimately profitability on dairy farms, thereby mitigating the sector’s vulnerability to price volatility.  The mechanism considered most appropriate to provide the necessary stimulus, through better grassland management, improved breeding and a greater focus on financial management, was the Discussion Group.  Apart from the demonstrably positive impact on productivity and business focus, Discussion Groups have been shown to have a variety of positive personal and social benefits for participants, requiring as they do a collective engagement from people with a range of personal and professional common interests whose work can, in the normal course of events, tend to be quite solitary.

The positive effects of the Programme are demonstrable.  A recently published independent evaluation report, carried out by Broadmore Research, on the ‘Impact of Participation in Teagasc Dairy Discussion Groups’ identified that farmers who are members of Discussion Groups are more likely than non-members to adopt new technologies, achieve higher physical performance in their farming enterprise and generate higher profit levels, calculated to be in the region of €240 per hectare.  Developments like this are essential to ensure that dairy farmers are employing the most efficient work practices possible to bring about the increased supplies of milk required to reach the 50% target set out in Food Harvest 2020.

The Programme involved a temporary financial stimulus of approximately €950 per annum over three years to encourage participation and cover some of the associated costs, which was financed from unspent Single Farm Payment funds.  Over the course of the Programme over 5,000 dairy farmers participated in all three years of the Programme.   With the ending of the DEP and in order to continue to encourage dairy farmers to join Discussion Groups, the Minister has introduced a new one year Development Programme for Dairying (DPD), which is aimed at encouraging milk suppliers who did not take part in the earlier DEP to do so and also encourage those farmers who, as yet, do not have their own milking facilities but are committed to a career in dairying to join Discussion Groups.   The closing date for receipt of applications for that Programme was 15 February 2013.

In conclusion, Minister Coveney said “I strongly encourage those who have already benefitted from the Programme to maintain their engagement with the Discussion Group model, as an effective vehicle for benchmarking their own performance against their peers, improving efficiency and making their enterprises more profitable”.

Date Released: 15 March 2013