West Cork-based cheese group Carbery is offering a total €6m annual bonus fund for suppliers who meet four sustainability criteria under its new FutureProof initiative.

As part of FutureProof, from next year Carbery suppliers will receive a one cent per litre bonus in exchange for the implementation of milk recording, meeting certain Economic Breeding Index thresholds, commitment to an ASSAP (water quality) assessment and using protected urea.

To help farmers to prepare for the full roll out of the scheme next year, Carbery will this year pay a 0.5cpl bonus to every farmer who signs up.

In opting in for FutureProof , farmers will commit to a sustainability pledge and also agree to undergo an ASSAP assessment for water quality.

Jason Hawkins, CEO of Carbery, said the company has had a commitment to sustainability since its foundation, adding that this ethos has come from the attitude of its 1,220 farmer suppliers.

"We have a long record of pioneering sustainable approaches and promoting sustainability on our farms," Mr Hawkins said.

"Whether through our Carbery Trees programme under which 100,000 trees have been planted on West Cork farms, our Carbery Greener Dairy farmers programme, underway since 2012, or our Farm Zero C project, we have always prioritised sustainable approaches," Mr Hawkins said.

The CEO said that the FutureProof bonus will ensure Carbery farmers take their sustainability approach to the next level, and that the group remains to the forefront of farming sustainably.

"We have chosen to focus on four very specific, measurable areas, which we believe will have the most impact, in terms of reducing environmental impact, improving efficiency on farms, and shifting the dial quickly on emissions and water quality, which is what we need to see in order to secure the future of dairy farming," he said.

"Though we are starting from a good base, with years of positive action behind us, farmers have a huge challenge ahead to meet the agriculture reduction target of 25% as set out in the Climate Action Plan. We will support our farmers all the way, and FutureProof will be a key enabler of this. We look forward to working together with Government on their proposals to do the same," he added.

Cormac O'Keeffe, Chairman of Carbery, said today's announcement is timely, given the targets announced for farmers last week, but the work on finalising this initiative has been underway by the Board of Carbery for some time now.

"We already have a significant number of farmers who are milk recording, implementing genetic gain and are using protected urea. The bonus means that these farmers will be rewarded for good practice, and farmers who want to make the switch to some of these practices or maximise what they are doing in these areas will be supported to do so," he added.