IFA President Padraig Walshe and National Sheep Chairman Henry Burns met the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith in Dublin recently on the severe difficulties and problems in the sheep sector.
Padraig Walshe said Minister Smith is acutely aware of the importance of the sheep sector and the need for urgent action and delivery to halt the decline in sheep farming. The Minister made it clear that he is committed to the sheep sector and determined to advance the sheep agenda at EU level.
Minister Smith said he fully supported the report and proposals put forward by MEP Liam Aylward including the need for a new Environmental Sheep Maintenance Scheme on a per ewe basis. He said he was meeting directly with the French Minister Michel Barnier to advance these proposals in Limoges and would be looking to secure unspent CAP funds for sheep.
Padraig Walshe told the Minister that this was a critical time for sheep farmers and there was a major expectation at producer level that urgent action will be taken at EU level. In addition, he said the Government must deliver in full on the payout of the €28m REPS mixed grazing package and the re-opening of the Grant Aid package for handling facilities and fencing.
Henry Burns told Minister Smith it was unacceptable that restrictions and obstacles had resulted in only 600 flock owners qualifying for the REPS mixed grazing measure. He said “IFA has put specific proposals to the Department which would remove these obstacles and free up the availability and payout of this money.” Henry Burns told the Minister he must take immediate action to resolve this problem.
Padraig Walshe said the sheep sector urgently requires an immediate confidence boost and Minister Smith can deliver this by honouring the Government’s commitment to farmers and removing the obstacles holding back the payout of the €28m in REPS and the €6m in farm grants.