Glendalough hosts Hill Sheep Forum
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.