The new entrant eligibility for the Sheep Welfare Scheme has been welcomed by Macra na Feirme, but the organisation believes further flexibility is required.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed announced that recent new entrant farmers would be eligible for the scheme.

This is a move in the right direction, according to Macra na Feirme National President Sean Finan.

“The new welfare scheme provides for those who were not farming in the 2014 and 2015 reference year and who are now farming sheep between January 2016 and the close of the scheme on the January 31, 2017, to be eligible for the €10 sheep welfare payment.

I welcome Minister Creed’s commitment to new entrant sheep farmers following lobbying by Macra na Feirme on this issue.

Macra are also proposing that Minister Creed should consider increasing the flexibility of the scheme for young farmers under the age of 40.

The organisation believes that these young farmers, who were established in the reference years and have grown sheep numbers since then, should be eligible to apply on their current sheep numbers.

“Young farmers starting out have their own ambition and development plans to reach a certain stocking number to be financially viable and sustainable.

“This is not generally achievable in year one or two for many young farmers who reach their ideal stocking rates over a number of years.

These young farmers should be given the option of using either the reference years or their current stocking number.

Macra believes this proposal would be a very positive move and is achievable within the existing budget for the scheme.

This proposal would send a positive signal to young sheep farmers who are growing their businesses while contributing to the economy and jobs agenda in rural areas, it says.