Martin and Varadkar both commit to Sheep Welfare Scheme rise – IFA

The leaders of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have committed to increase the Sheep Welfare Scheme from €10 to €15/ewe as part of discussions with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) this week, the organisation has said.

Speaking on the matter, IFA National Sheep Committee chairman Sean Dennehy said that the association has “progressed its sheep policy proposals very positively” with the leaders – Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, and Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin – at the IFA annual general meeting (AGM) on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

“This is solid progress and we want to build on it to get to direct supports of €30/ewe,” he said.

The IFA said it is continuing to pursue a targeted direct payment of €30/ewe for sheep farmers from a combination of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and national funding.

This would include a roll-over and increase in the Sheep Welfare Scheme to €15/ewe and CAP Pillar II funding.

Continuing, Dennehy said sheep farming is the second-largest farming enterprise in terms of farmer numbers, with 34,000 flock owners, adding that it is particularly important in mountain and hill areas.

With pressure on lamb prices and direct payments, sheep farm incomes are very low at an average of €13,397 for 2018.

The key proposals on sheep outlined in the IFA General Election 2020 manifesto include:
  • A targeted direct payment of €30/ewe for sheep farmers from a combination of CAP and national funding;
  • The option of coupled payments and eco scheme payments in CAP Pillar I;
  • In CAP Pillar II, a strong environmental payment of €10,000 per farm, an increase in ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments and higher payments for designated and commonage lands;
  • Immediate market access to the important Chinese and US markets as well as other new lamb markets;
  • On EID tagging, a roll-over of the €100 funding per farmer for the cost of tagging for the next three years, increased grant aid for electronic readers and a single tag for the sale of finished lambs in the marts;
  • Abolish all non-statutory levies associated with scrapie, SRM charges and clipping charges;
  • A clampdown on dog attacks through a properly funded dog warden service, implementation of micro-chipping of all dogs and one central government database; and
  • The sheep sector must be fully protected in Brexit in terms of free access to the UK market, the fair share-out of the existing New Zealand and other TRQ import quotas.

In addition, the IFA stressed that the EU must fully protect the European sheepmeat sector by ensuring that there is no additional market access for New Zealand and Australia, in any new trade negotiations.

Dennehy said the IFA National Sheep Committee is undertaking an intensive lobby of all political candidates in every constituency before the General Election on Saturday, February 8.

“No politician will be left in any doubt as to the supports the sheep sector needs from the next Government,” he concluded.