The IFA will meet the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney tomorrow (Tuesday) to press for the introduction of direct sheep support payments.

“What was the old Sheep Grassland Scheme has been included within the new Single Payment arrangements,” said IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey.

“But it is not providing a specific payment per ewe, as would have previously been the case. All the current evidence clearly points to the need for sheep farmers to receive an additional payment per ewe, simply to keep numbers at current levels.

“And this is a point that we will be making to the Minister in the clearest possible terms.

Prior to the recent Budget, IFA called for the introduction of a direct payment scheme for the sheep sector.

“This would have seen €25m made available to flockowners on an annual basis.

“The government did not acquiesce on this specific point last month, so we will be asking Minister Coveney to find another funding vehicle for the proposed direct payment proposal.”

Lynskey confirmed that he will attend the inaugural meeting of the EU Sheep Reflection Group in Brussels on November 12.

“The meeting will be chaired by former IFA President John Bryan,” he said.

“It will bring together farming organisation, processers and the retail trade from across Europe.

“The role of the group is to discuss the future support and marketing needs of the EU sheep sector. A report will be published after a six-month consultation period. Our core objective will be to ensure that the EU makes additional, direct support payments a reality for Irish sheep farmers.”

Lynskey said that the potential to boost the development of the sheep sector in Ireland is significant.

“The EU is only 70% self-sufficient in lamb and other sheep meat products. What we need is a concerted campaign driven by Brussels to ensure that farmers are adequately supported at specific times of the year. European lamb must also be marketed as a high quality meat.

“And, again, there is an onus on Brussels to meet this challenge.”