IFA President Eddie Downey led a delegation on sheep including National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey in a high level meeting with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in Dublin this week.
Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney clearly recognises that sheep farming is a low income sector and needs ongoing support. Eddie Downey said the IFA put a strong case to the Minister for additional direct targeted support for the sheep sector, which he said was essential to maintain the national flock. In addition, he said IFA also set out clearly the need for strong support for sheep farming across the various RDP farm schemes of Knowledge Transfer, ANC’s, GLAS and TAMs.
Eddie Downey told Minister Coveney the sheep sector is very important, involving 34,000 farmers with an output value of €300m and production of 58,000t of lamb. He said a study by UCD showed each €1 in support for the sheep sector underpins €2.70 of aggregate output in the economy.
IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said we put a strong case to the Minister that to maintain and grow the sheep sector there is a need for increased targeted direct support and IFA is seeking the equivalent of €20 per ewe. “We pointed out that 22 member states across the EU have introduced coupled payments for sheep as part of CAP Reform, with an average payment of €12 per ewe.”
John Lynskey told the Minister that sheep farmers must have full access and be able to draw down their fair share from the Rural Development Farm schemes. On Knowledge Transfer, John Lynskey said IFA put the case that mixed enterprises like cattle and sheep farming are entitled to additional payments. Minister Coveney said he was going to resolve this problem and the Department were examining how to accommodate this situation.
On GLAS, issues regarding access for sheep farmers were raised with the Minister and particularly the reduction in the number of hectares for low input permeant pasture as well as the availability of GLAS plus in hill areas.
John Lynskey welcomed the reinstatement of the TAMs grant aid for sheep fencing in the Budget. Minister Coveney told the IFA sheep fencing would be included as part of the RDP amendment to Brussels, which he said would be cleared and ready to roll out early in the new year.
The National Sheep Chairman also said IFA also raise concerns on identification and EID regarding costs, the retention of the derogation on lambs direct to slaughter, a reduction in bureaucracy and paperwork, and the problems for hill lamb. In conclusion, John Lynskey said the Minister agreed to examine all of the support mechanisms available for sheep and said he would re-visit the situation with the IFA in early 2016.