Advance sheep welfare payments issued to 100% of approved applicants

A total of 20,515 farmers have received their 85% advance payment under the Sheep Welfare Scheme, according to the latest figures.

This represents 100% of the approved applicants under the scheme, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, confirmed this in response to a recent parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue.

These advance payments – which totalled €16 million – under the scheme began to issue last week to all eligible farmers. The scheme is co-funded by the European Union as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme, 2014-2020.

Balancing payments are due to issue in 2018, Minister Creed confirmed.

Figures released by the minister indicate that just over 55% of sheep farmers in the country are approved applicants in the scheme. There is a total of 36,313 sheep farmers in Ireland, according to data obtained from the 2016 Sheep Census returns.

Of this total, some 22,273 farmers applied to take part in the scheme. But approximately 8% of this total never became approved applicants. Some 317 farmers withdrew their applications.

Meanwhile, 1,441 farmers did not meet the scheme criteria. But some of these applicants may qualify for payment once the issue with the application has been rectified.

Under the scheme, farmers who are accepted are provided with a payment of €10/ewe – as long as they have complied with the terms and conditions.

It is hoped the scheme – which is proposed to run for four years – will make a positive contribution to sheep welfare, with particular regard to the production system and the environment in which Irish sheep production takes place.

Sheep farmers with breeding ewes can apply for payment based on two actions they choose from a menu to undertake, depending on their flock type. Farmers who are accepted into the scheme must choose one option from each category.

*Hill flocks may not choose both mineral supplementation of lambs and meal feeding of lambs post weaning

While announcing the commencement of advance payments, Minister Creed confirmed that the second year of the scheme will be opening in the coming weeks. The Department of Agriculture is expected to get in contact with farmers in the coming weeks to alert them of this.

New entrants to the sector will be offered the opportunity to join the scheme at that stage as well, the minister added.