04 Feb 2014
IFA MEET MINISTER COVENEY ON SHEEP GRASSLAND SCHEMESheep
IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey met with Agricultural Minister Simon Coveney in Athlone this week and highlighted the problems over the changes to the sheep grassland scheme proposed in the CAP implementation plan. After the meeting, John Lynskey said Minister Coveney recognises that there are problems with the changes to the Grassland scheme and is open to alternative proposals.
At the meeting with Minister Coveney, John Lynskey pointed out that there is a strong view among sheep farmers that the proposed plan to incorporate the €15m sheep grassland payment into the SFP of flock owners erodes any additional value and benefit from the scheme and removes the positive incentive it provided to maintaining the national ewe flock.
John Lynskey said the move to fully decouple the grassland scheme will put the national sheep flock under pressure going forward. In addition, he said the convergence of the Single Farm Payment in the CAP process will remove the additional value of the grassland payment to sheep farmers. He said “we have to find a way to fully preserve the €15m for sheep farmers going forward.”
John Lynskey said the sheep grassland scheme proved its worth at stabilising the national flock when it was in serious decline. He said Minister Coveney has agreed to relook at the situation and we will have to find a more targeted method of supporting sheep farmers and the national sheep flock.
The IFA Sheep farmers leader said the challenge going forward will be to support incomes on sheep farms and maintain ewe numbers. He said sheep farmers must be eligible to qualify for the new Agri-environmental scheme of €5,000 (GLAS). He added that hill sheep farmers must be eligible to qualify for the additional €2000 GLAS + scheme.
John Lynskey said sheep farmers’ incomes are very low and producers are reliant on direct payments. Many flock owners are operating on very marginal land and in mountainous regions, and farming under severe restrictions. “Income and environmental supports are absolutely critical to the sheep sector.”