Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that the Minister for Agriculture must ensure that a €5 million underspend from the Sheep Welfare Scheme goes to sheep farmers.
The scheme provides support to sheep farmers for undertaking actions which make a positive contribution to flock welfare.
Speaking from Brussels today, Matt Carthy said:
“The Sheep Welfare Scheme foresaw a budget of €25m to be paid to farmers undertaking actions to improve the national herd.
“Although disparities between the size of the national herd, eligible participants, and this figure were pointed out at the time, a support of €10 per ewe was announced.
“Recent participation figures announced by the Department of Agriculture are now pointing to an underspend of about €5m.
“With this in mind, I wrote to EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan asking for confirmation that there were no EU restrictions that would prevent the remaining €5m being committed to sheep farmers.
“Given that the amount was announced through a national budgetary process, I called on the Commissioner to ensure that the money went to farmers already fulfilling criteria.
“In a letter I have received this week Commissioner Hogan has confirmed that it is possible for the Government to re-allocate this money to the scheme.
“However, in order to receive it in the form of a top-up, from €10 to €15 per ewe, some additional prescribed actions would be required from farmers.
“This is because the amount has been calculated based on costs incurred by farmers in carrying out the current criteria.
“I will be pressing the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to ensure this leeway is used to recommit the €5m underspend to sheep farmers.
“Additional funding is vital for sheep farming, already a low income sector for many Irish farmers.
“Any additional burdens or actions required from Irish sheep farmers must be agreed with them in advance of the new criteria being communicated to the European Commission for approval.”