Tipperary farming: calls for changes to Sheep Welfare Scheme

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Tipperary farming: calls for changes to Sheep Welfare Scheme

Tipperary farming: calls for changes to Sheep Welfare Scheme

The Department of Agriculture has been urged to change the reference years of the Sheep Welfare Scheme for the CAP transition period.

“The reference years do not reflect the current flock numbers of many sheep farmers within the scheme who have developed their enterprise since the reference period and need to be changed,” according to IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy.

He also urged the Department to allow new entrants into the scheme.

Mr Dennehy said the Department originally allocated €25m a year to this scheme. However, only €17m has been earmarked for 2021, reflecting the current levels of participation.

“We need to do all we can to encourage generational renewal on sheep farms in Ireland, changing the reference years and allowing new entrants are important first steps to maximise participation in the scheme and ensuring all funding allocated to support the sector finds its way onto sheep farms,” he said.

Meanwhile, ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has said sheep farmers are facing enormous difficulties as a result of the current Level 5 restrictions at marts.

He has called on Minister McConalogue to urgently revisit the matter.

“Sheep farmers need to be able to make informed decisions around the stock they buy in. These decisions are based on physical inspections of lambs and judgement calls around fitness to kill. You cannot buy lambs without handling them. None of this is possible with online sales,” he said.

“Sheep farmers have been put at a severe disadvantage as it is simply not possible to properly evaluate stock online. We cannot continue with a situation whereby trade is being stifled to such an extent that farmers are unable to farm. Primary producers are a vital part of the food chain and they must be afforded the ability to continue to conduct their businesses,” he said.

Mr McNamara said apart from the difficulties with evaluating lambs online there is a wider issue of being able to access the sales at all.

“The lack of broadband reliability is wreaking havoc, but the age demographic of sheep farmers is also an issue. By and large sheep farmers are that bit older and not as robust when it comes to trading online and allowances must be made for this. We have to keep our businesses going and greater flexibility will have to be shown around allowing limited numbers into marts,” said Mr McNamara.