Farmers milk cow on Dublin street in protest over incomes
FARMERS milked a cow and dumped a trailer load of feed for three pigs on a central Dublin street yesterday during protests over falling incomes.
Hundreds of farmers took part in the demonstration outside the European Commission's office to raise concerns over plummeting milk and grain prices.
The action came as farmers in the north announced plans to stage a major demonstration at Stormont to highlight difficulties facing their industry.
The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) said it hoped Friday's protest would send a strong message to the European Commission.
In recent weeks protesting dairy farmers have used convoys of tractors to block deliveries and demonstrators removed milk from store shelves.
UFU president Ian Marshall said: "People in Northern Ireland understand the importance of a vibrant food industry to the local economy – our aim is to make sure this message is heard in Brussels.
"We do not want to be in a situation where the farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, sees protests in Dublin, Paris or anywhere else but not in Belfast and uses that as a reason to conveniently ignore us."
Although the dairy industry has been grabbing headlines, other agri-food sectors are also hurting, the union said.
The UFU has cautioned against a collapse of the fragile political institutions at Stormont, fearing that farmers will lose out if direct rule from Westminster is imposed.
Mr Marshall said: "The government at Westminster and the devolved administration here, in Scotland and in Wales have very different views of what the industry need. We are concerned that in an era of UK devolution we risk being marginalised in Westminster and Brussels if we do not have our own local political representation."
A UFU delegation is also expected to picket a meeting between the Commission and farm ministers in Brussels on Monday alongside farmers from across the EU.
The demonstration in Dublin yesterday was organised by the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) ahead of Monday's major protest in Brussels.
The IFA claims the average farming income is close to €24,000.
It warned that political interference in markets, the Russian trade ban, severe price volatility and unregulated retailers are combining to decimate farm incomes and undermine the sector.
Dairy representatives said many farmers are seeing margins down as much as 92 per cent in the last 16 months.
Some have claimed dairy farmers are facing income swings of up to €40,000 since milk quotas were abolished and prices crashed to a 12-year low.