IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said this week’s announcement by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney committing to a specific new support programme for the sheep sector is positive.
He said IFA is campaigning hard for a new €20 per ewe targeted support for sheep farmers and has made this a priority issue in the current General Election campaign.
The IFA sheep farmers’ leader said Association will continue to push the case strongly for €20 per ewe. He said the Minister suggested support could be linked to a genomic type scheme like the BDGP for sucklers, and IFA is insisting that support for sheep must be worthwhile, targeted, widely available and cannot be tied up with unnecessary bureaucracy.
John Lynskey said at a meeting with IFA late last year, Minister Coveney accepted that sheep farming is a low income sector and needs ongoing direct support. He said, “IFA put a strong case to the Minister that to maintain and grow the sheep sector there is a need for increased targeted direct support and IFA is seeking a payment of €20 per ewe”.
IFA made a detailed presentation and submission to the Dáil Agriculture Committee last October and secured unanimous support for the proposal to increase support to the sheep sector.
John Lynskey said that following strong lobbying at Budget time by the IFA, Minister Coveney agreed to reinstate grant aid for sheep fencing in TAMS II. He said this proposal has now been included as part of the Rural Development Programme amendments submitted to Brussels and should be available for sheep farmers this spring.
John Lynskey said the IFA has also secured additional payments for mixed cattle and sheep farmers under the Knowledge Transfer programme. “As a result of IFA lobbying, mixed enterprise farmers will be eligible to receive payments worth €1,125 under the new KT programme”.
He said initially it had been made clear that these farmers could only receive one payment. However, IFA highlighted how this was very unfair and unacceptable, and lobbied hard for additional payments.
He said it is now being agreed that farmers with dual enterprises will receive a full KT payment for one enterprise and a 50% KT payment for the second enterprise. “This will be very important for thousands of cattle and sheep farmers who have joint enterprises.”
The sheep sector is very important, involving 34,000 farmers with an output value of €300m and production of 58,000t of lamb. He said a study by UCD showed each €1 in support for the sheep sector underpins €2.70 of aggregate output in the economy.