No Hiding Place for Minister as Income Crisis Deepens on Sheep Farms – IFA

Sheep in Wicklow

IFA National Sheep Chair Kevin Comiskey said the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue must come forward with a strong package of direct supports for sheep farmers in the Budget.

He said IFA have highlighted to the Minister throughout this year the difficulties in the sector and sheep farmers will be anxiously watching this year’s budget to see if the Ministers words of support for the sector translate into meaningful funding commitments to offset the enormous income challenges on farms.

Kevin Comiskey said margins on sheep farms dropped over 80% last year to just €7/ewe with weak markets to-date this year taking a further €11m directly from sheep farmers pockets as prices to-date average almost 30c/kg behind last year’s levels.

IFA National Sheep Chair said the sheep sector is a low-income vulnerable sector that does not have the capacity to absorb these challenges and must be provided with meaningful targeted direct supports.

Kevin Comiskey said hill sheep farmers have had a particularly challenging two years as store finishers grapple with high input costs and low market returns.

He said IFA have put comprehensive proposals to the Minister and his officials to build payments to €30/ewe while also supporting the store lamb trade. 

Costings in the Sheep Improvement Scheme must be revised to reflect the costs of compliance with the scheme for farmers, the genotype ram action in particular is costing farmers €200 to €300 more in the price they have had to pay for scheme eligible rams, the additional €2/ewe the Minister provided for this measure in the scheme is not adequate and must be increased.

He said sheep farmers have carried the impact of the collapsed wool market with no recognition from Government, this is unacceptable and must be addressed. The broader benefits and multiple potential uses for wool will not return any meaningful value at the farm gate.

Kevin Comiskey said if the full benefits and value of this product is to be developed then farmers must be directly supported for the costs associated with shearing and presenting wool in optimum condition to reduce the costs associated with preparing the product for further processing. IFA are calling for a payment of €8/ewe for farmers to offset the costs and labour associated with shearing and presenting wool.

He said sheep dipping is extremely labour intensive and expensive for sheep farmers, yet this is recognised as the most effective way to deal with issues such as sheep scab which is becoming a problem on an increasing number of sheep farms. IFA are calling for sheep farmers to be supported for carrying out this important animal health and welfare measure on farms with €10/ewe payment.

Kevin Comiskey said IFA have set out these proposals in detail to the Minister, his Government colleagues and senior Department of Agriculture officials, including directly supporting store lamb finishers in recognition of the critical role they play for hill sheep farmers.

The Minister cannot continue to ignore sheep farmers and the challenges in the sector, a strong meaningful targeted support package for sheep farmers in the upcoming budget is critical for the economic viability of the sector and to ensure we have generational renewal to protect our second largest farming sector in the country.

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