Priority access to GLAS was among a host of measures called for by the IFA to support the sheep sector at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture.
Speaking at the meeting, IFA Eddie Downey said in the most recent CAP reform there were no specific policy elements agreed for the sheep sector under either pillar 1 or pillar 2, unlike the beef sector where the suckler beef genomics scheme from the Pillar 2 RDP was introduced, worth €52m pa.
He said as part of the current CAP Reform, IFA lobbied strongly for a coupled payment for sheep, which was rejected by Minister Coveney and his Department.
“Instead, the Minister incorporated the sheep grassland payment into the single farm payment of sheep farmers and increased its value to €15m through unused funds and modulation.
“However, we now have a situation where we do not have a targeted sheep specific payment that will support and develop the sector.
“In order to maintain and grow the national sheep flock there is a need for increased targeted direct support for sheep production from a combination of EU and national funds. Support should be targeted at active producers,” he said.
IFA says it is insisting that sheep farmers get the best deal possible under the recent CAP and RDP reforms.
To maintain the national ewe flock, the sheep sector requires targeted sheep specific payments to the equivalent to €20 per ewe.
IFA is demanding that Minister Coveney starts providing funding for this, with priority access to a number of schemes and the allocation of €25m for a direct payment.
IFA is insisting that sheep farmers get the best deal possible.
To maintain the national ewe flock, the sheep sector requires targeted sheep specific payments to the equivalent to €20 per ewe. IFA is demanding that Minister Coveney starts providing funding for this, with priority access to a number of schemes and the allocation of €25m for a direct payment.
Sheep farmers must have priority access to the GLAS payment of up to €5,000 p.a. All qualifying sheep farmers should be accepted into the scheme. In addition, mixed grazing involving cattle and sheep should qualify as a payment measure.
The latest move to limit the scheme and exclude farmers from the second phase is not acceptable. The changes to the low-input permanent pasture and traditional hay meadows effectively halves the value of those measures which are vital for sheep and cattle farmers. This must be addressed and 50,000 applicants allowed join.
For commonage farmers, plans must be implemented in a flexible way to maximise participation in line with the IFA commonage strategy. The restrictions on GLAS+ must be eased so that hill sheep farmers and commonage farmers can qualify.
The current STAP (Sheep Technology Advisory Programme) scheme has been very successful, with over 4,000 sheep farmer participants. This must be built upon and IFA is proposing that a target of 10,000 participants be included in the new Knowledge Transfer scheme for sheep in 2016.
The Knowledge Transfer programme must be simple and practical. Mixed cattle and sheep farms must continue to qualify for a level of separate payment. Likewise mixed tillage and sheep farms should also qualify for additional payments.
IFA has made our views very clear to the Minister on the unacceptable situation over the issue of making payments to advisors/facilitators as opposed directly to farmers and also on the actual level of payments.
TAMS II must have a significant and dedicated level of funding for investment in the sheep sector.
The decision of the Minister to exclude sheep fencing and technology equipment in the recent TAMS II announcement was wrong and must be reversed. The Minister must include these items under the amendment currently being prepared on the RDP programme to be submitted to Brussels.
Payments for Areas of Natural Constraint (formerly DAS) should be restored to their pre-2008 levels.
This involves a restoration of payment rates at farm level and restoration of the payment status of farmers in split holdings.
The Government, in conjunction with Bord Bia, must adopt a strong market access policy to open up new high value markets like US, China and others, and remove the access restrictions and difficulties associated with TSEs for both sheep meat and live animals. We also need to develop market outlets for light lamb.
Other Policy areas that are important for sheep producers include the need for Teagasc to maintain a strong independent sheep research and advisory programme with Athenry as a centre of excellence. In addition, Teagasc needs to increase the numbers of sheep farms in the BETTER Farms Programme.
Bord Bia promotional funding for Irish lamb on the domestic and export markets must be maintained in addition to EU funding for generic promotion of lamb. There needs to be a worthwhile and transparent price incentive for lambs from a Bord Bia Quality Assured farm.
Sheep Ireland is working hard on sheep breeding. It is very important we have a well-funded, focused and practical sheep breeding improvement programme implemented for the benefit of sheep farmers and the sector. It is essential this is closely linked into the Knowledge Transfer Programme and Teagasc going forward.
Tagging and EID
Regarding the latest discussions on imposing compulsory electronic tagging (EID) for all sheep, IFA has made the views of sheep farmers very clear to Minister Coveney and the Department. The €2m costs involved for sheep farmers are excessive and the derogation on lambs direct to slaughter must be maintained. In addition the unique situation of hill sheep producers must be accommodated and Central Points of Recording must be available to reduce paperwork and bureaucracy.
Chairman, in summary, IFA is requesting the support of this Committee for increased supports for the 34,000 sheep farmers in the sector. This is a very important sector and deserves its fair share.