IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman Sean Dennehy said IFA has again formally requested the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide all farmers in the Sheep Welfare Scheme the opportunity to update their reference numbers.
IFA has written to the Minister setting out the importance of the scheme and the need for it to accurately reflect the level of activity on participant farms.
Sean Dennehy welcomed the rollover for the transition period and providing for new entrants to the sector.
“While acknowledging the willingness of the Minister to have reference numbers for the scheme reviewed, this process lacks clearly defined criteria. It must be standardised to provide all farmers with the opportunity to have updated reference numbers established in a straight-forward manner,” he said.
Sean Dennehy said the rigid adherence of the Terms and Conditions of the scheme to the reference numbers established in 2014 and 2015 has effectively reduced the level of support available to sheep farmers. Where numbers have reduced on participant farms or where farmers exited the scheme, this money has been lost to the sector.
He said the constraints of the historic reference period has meant that progressive sheep farmers, who are the future of the sector, are penalised with low numbers of eligible sheep.
“IFA wants all farmers in the scheme to be provided with the opportunity to have their reference numbers brought up to date to accurately reflect the level of activity on the farm in a straight-forward process,” he said.
Sean Dennehy said this is a critical amendment to a scheme that sheep farmers depend on to ensure the scheme appropriately supports the progressive sheep farmers who are vital in sustaining the future viability of the sector.