The IFA says South Tipperary dairy farmers are “hugely concerned” about their future in the wake of Taisce’s decision to seek an appeal of a High Court ruling upholding planning permission for Glanbia’s €140m Belview cheese plant.
Erica O’Keeffe, South Tipperary IFA chairperson, said many Glanbia milk suppliers in this county have expanded their dairy herds and farm operations in the past few years to meet the extra milk processing capacity the co-op planned at its proposed Belview plant in south Kilkenny.
Now they face cuts in the price they receive for milk they produce beyond specified levels during peak production months next year because Glanbia Ireland has moved to limit the growth in milk supplies due to the planning delays in commissioning the new cheese plant.
Ms O'Keeffe said dairy farmers in south Tipperary who have invested a lot of money in expanding their operations are now hugely concerned about what the future holds. Others have been forced to put expansion plans on hold due to the uncertainty.
She said An Taisce’s decision to appeal the High Court ruling was disappointing and not good for the dairy industry or Irish economy. Her concerns were echoed by IFA national president Tim Cullinan from Toomevara, who has in the past week strongly criticised An Taisce’s refusal to accept three separate decisions by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanala and the High Court approving planning permission for the cheese plant.
“An Taisce has a role in the planning system. In taking up that role, they implicitly accept the process as robust, fair and independent. Running away with the football because they lost the match does not show much maturity,” he said.
He argued the Glanbia project was designed to respond to the challenge from Brexit and the need for the agricultural sector to diversify its products and seek new markets. He accused An Taisce of obstructing a “valid initiative designed to safeguard the livelihoods of farm families and the rural economy”.
Several Tipperary TDs have also publicly criticised An Taisce’s stance.
Speaking in the Dáil last week, Independent TD Mattie McGrath accused An Taisce of threatening about 100 jobs and the livelihoods of milk suppliers all over the South East. He complained An Taisce was getting significant funding from Government agencies and can’t be allowed to use tax payers money to cause havoc and destroy tax payers.
Fianna Fail TD and former Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president Jackie Cahill described An Taisce’s intention to appeal the High Court decision as a “revolting act of betrayal against rural Ireland and the agricultural community”.
Deputy Cahill, who chairs the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, said one had to seriously question An Taisce’s use of public funds in this “long drawn out saga”
Senator Garret Ahearn, was among six Fine Gael Oireachtas members who issued a joint statement calling on An Taisce to withdraw its notice to appeal the High Court decision. The group said An Taisce’s move didn’t “cast Ireland in a good light locally, regionally or internationally – particularly at a time when we urgently need foreign direct investment and sustainable, well-paying jobs in our rural economy”.
An Taisce said its decisions to take legal action were never taken lightly and taken only where it felt the situation was of sufficient seriousness. Its trustees judged the environmental, climate and biodiversity implications of the proposed Belview cheese factory required such a step. It said the Belview project was the latest in a dairy/food industry expansion campaign that “disregards the mounting scientific evidence that degrowth and diversification in agriculture are essential to give our ecosystems a chance to restore and recover”.
An Taisce also cited “apparent legal weaknesses and anomalies” in the High Court judgment.“We believe some critical previous case law and precedents were glossed over in the formulation provided. If we do not contest the judgement these anomalies would be allowed to stand and would potentially weaken all future similar challenges. we feel obliged to seek to undo any weakening of the pre-existing network of environmental case law.”
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