No plans to increase payment level under the Sheep Welfare Scheme

There are no plans on the horizon to increase the level of payment under the Sheep Welfare Scheme, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

It was previously confirmed that a total of 22,174 applications were received under the 2017 Sheep Welfare Scheme. The payment is set at a rate of €10 per eligible breeding ewe.

Payments under the scheme are scheduled to commence later this year.

The scheme was introduced to make a vital contribution to ensuring the continuing viability and sustainability of the sheep sector in Ireland, Minister Creed explained in a response to a recent parliamentary question.

“The details of the Sheep Welfare Scheme, including the amount of payment to participants, were approved by the European Commission in 2016.

The payment rates are based on the agreed costings underlying the actions to be undertaken in the scheme, and an increase in payments would thus require changes to the actions currently being undertaken by farmers.

“Any such changes to the details of the scheme would require the agreement of the European Commission via the formal Rural Development Programme amendment process.

“It is not currently anticipated that there will be an increase in the level of payment to participants of the scheme,” Minister Creed said.

Currently, participants in the scheme are required to carry out two actions they choose from a menu, depending on their flock type.

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

The introduction of new actions and increasing payments by €5 per ewe would see the annual cost of the scheme increase by 50%, he added.

“Given the number of eligible ewes currently in the scheme, the estimated yearly cost of a scheme with such new measures would be €30 million,” Minister Creed said.

The scheme – which is proposed to run for four years – will take the average number of breeding ewes the farmer held in 2014 and 2015, as declared on the sheep census, as the eligible number of ewes for payment.