IFA Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy has again called on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide all farmers in the Sheep Welfare Scheme with the opportunity to update their reference numbers.
Sean Dennehy said the rollover of the scheme for the transition period that allows new entrants to the sector is important as sheep farmers rely heavily on this support.
However, he said the scheme must accurately reflect the level of activity on participant farms by providing for an updated reference period for farmers. This is a critical amendment that will support generational renewal in the sector.
Acknowledging the willingness of the Minister to have reference numbers for the scheme reviewed, he said the current process lacks clearly defined criteria. “Most importantly, we need an acknowledgement of the simple fact that sheep farmers have increased numbers,” he said.
Sean Dennehy said there must be a standard process that provides all farmers with the opportunity to update their numbers in a straight-forward manner.
Sean Dennehy said the rigid adherence 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.