Glen­dalough hosts Hill Sheep Fo­rum

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS - By EIMEAR DODD

THE 2019 IFA Na­tional Hill Sheep Fo­rum was held in Glen­dalough.

Open­ing the event, the IFA Pres­i­dent Joe Healy said that the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture Michael Creed and the EU Com­mis­sion must recog­nise and re­ward the pos­i­tive value that hill farm­ers can bring to cli­mate ac­tion.

‘Farm in­comes are un­der se­ri­ous pres­sure in th­ese ar­eas and the value of the en­vi­ron­ment must be taken along­side agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in the for­mu­la­tion of sup­ports to hill farm­ers,’ he said.

Mr Healy said this could be done by a com­bi­na­tion of cat­tle and sheep pro­duc­tion, di­rect pay­ments and a strong en­vi­ron­men­tal scheme in the forth­com­ing CAP ne­go­ti­a­tions.

‘Hill sheep pro­duc­tion is the pre­dom­i­nant en­ter­prise among the 30,000 farm­ers who farm and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment in hill and moun­tain graz­ing ar­eas.’

Mr Healy added the forth­com­ing 2019 ANC pay­ment in­crease is an im­por­tant in­come boost, but this must be fol­lowed by fur­ther di­rect pay­ment sup­ports.

Speak­ing to hill farm­ers from around the coun­try, the IFA Pres­i­dent said the im­pact of Brexit will be felt in all farms, par­tic­u­larly the most vul­ner­a­ble such as those in moun­tain and hill ar­eas.

IFA Na­tional Sheep Chair­man Sean Den­nehy said that a tar­geted di­rect pay­ment for sheep must be part of the next CAP, with a sub­stan­tial in­crease on the rate from the cur­rent level of €10 per ewe in the Sheep Wel­fare scheme. He said IFA has pro­posed a tar­geted pay­ment of €30 per ewe.

‘This level of sup­port is nec­es­sary to sus­tain sheep num­bers in hill ar­eas where keep­ing stock is es­sen­tial to the main­te­nance of the en­vi­ron­ment. Farm in­comes in hill ar­eas ac­cord­ing to the Tea­gasc Na­tional Farm Sur­vey are some of the low­est in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor and are very de­pen­dent on di­rect pay­ments,’ Mr Den­nehy said.

Mr Den­nehy said 49 per cent of the 2.5 mil­lion breed­ing ewes in Ire­land, are of a moun­tain breed. He said the 2018 Sheep Cen­sus shows that there are 800,133 moun­tain breed­ing ewes and a fur­ther 448,412 moun­tain cross breed­ing ewes in the coun­try.

Mr Den­nehy said the de­vel­op­ment of lamb mar­kets which re­turn a strong vi­able price for qual­ity lamb was es­sen­tial to the sheep sec­tor. He said Ir­ish lamb is a top qual­ity nat­u­ral light meat pro­duced in the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment to the high­est stan­dards in the world.

‘Sheep farm­ers are very frus­trated when the see lamb prices con­stantly un­der pres­sure and more costs be­ing pushed back on them all the time with the likes of com­pul­sory EID tag­ging this year. Min­is­ter Creed and the meat pro­ces­sors have yet to show sheep farm­ers any ben­e­fit from EID tag­ging other than ad­di­tional costs, bu­reau­cracy and red tape.’

The IFA Hill Chair­man said that the Gov­ern­ment must put in place a prop­erly-funded Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Plan up to al­low for mea­sures across many is­sues.

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