New sheep payment will be higher than previous schemes – Minister

A planned new sheep scheme will represent a considerable increase on old Grassland Sheep scheme, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

He was responding to questioning this week from the Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Martin Kenny.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a new scheme in support of the sector which, with an estimated expenditure of €25 million per year.

The Grassland Sheep Scheme ran from 2010 until final payments in 2015. Over the course of the scheme, almost €62 million net was paid to sheep farmers with an average payment of €15 million per year.

The Minister said that it must be remembered that the former Grassland Sheep Scheme was not discontinued but rather that payments under that scheme have been incorporated into the new Basic Payment Scheme so in effect many farmers are still receiving the benefit of these payments.

‘New scheme won’t be money for jam’

Minister Creed in an interview with Agriland recently said that the department will have to get something back from sheep farmers to ensure the scheme gets approval at EU level.

“It’s not money for Jam and I know the sheep industry out there know that.

“I don’t want to be prescriptive about what we will have to get. It will have to cut the mustard at European level. I think the industry realistically knows that too.

Also Read: What will sheep farmers have to do to get their new €10/ewe payment?

Minister Creed has said that the focus now is on to the design of the new sheep scheme.

“My Department is currently working on a draft outline of the scheme design with a view to discussing this with farm organisations and stakeholders in the very near future,” he said.

Under the old Grassland Sheep Scheme, sheep farmers were required to have a valid Single Payment application with forage areas declared, maintain a ewe breeding flock and submit a sheep census form over the period covered among other statutory requirements on GAEC.

Payment was based on the number of ewes declared on an applicant’s census form, the amount of hectares of forage land declared and the type of land declared, be it mountain or lowland.