IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed on the payment of the 2019 Sheep Welfare Scheme to 18,500 sheep farmers.
“The sheep welfare scheme is worth €10 per ewe and this payment is an advance of 85%. The remaining 15% payment will be paid in 2020.”
Sean Dennehy said the scheme has one more year to run and IFA is lobbying for a new enhanced scheme from the Minister.
IFA has launched a plan of action required for the sheep sector including Government and EU supports, which are needed to secure this very important farm enterprise into the future.
The Teagasc National Farm Survey shows that incomes on sheep farms in 2018 were €13,297. Ewe numbers at 2.56m are down 86,000 head in the December 2018 sheep census.
Sean Dennehy said IFA is pushing for increased targeted payments for the sheep sector from both domestic funding and CAP supports. “IFA is campaigning for targeted direct payments of €30 per ewe for sheep farmers.”
“IFA is proposing that Minister Creed amends the sheep welfare scheme and provides more options and funding for farmers to increase the payment to €15 per ewe for 2020 and also extend and enhance the scheme for future years.”
On CAP, Sean Dennehy said Minister Creed must fully protect the CAP Budget and secure an increase to cover inflation and any extra costs on farmers. He has to start with reversing the €97m cut proposed for Ireland. “The CAP Strategic Plan for Ireland must prioritise vulnerable sectors like sheep. Coupled payments as well as targeted ECO schemes must be considered in Pillar I”.
On the Rural Development Plan in Pillar II, the IFA sheep farmers leader said sheep farming makes a significant socio economic and environmental contribution to rural areas and especially in hill and mountainous regions, where other types of farming are not possible.
“IFA has proposed a €10,000 environmental scheme in the new CAP with higher payments for Designated and Commonage land, as well as increased funding for ANCs (Areas of Natural Constraint).”
The Irish sheep meat industry generates an output value of €485 million per annum, supports in excess of 34,000 sheep farmers and thousands more jobs in related industry services.
Ireland’s national sheep flock totals 2.56 million breeding sheep. Lowland enterprises account for 55% of the ewe population, with the remainder on hill farms. The four major sheep production counties are all along the western seaboard: Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry. These are followed by Wicklow and Roscommon.