Payments under year four of the Sheep Welfare Scheme have begun to issue to farmers, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.

A total of €14.7 million is set to hit the bank accounts of some 18,200 farmers participating in the scheme.

The rate for the advance payment is set at 85%, with the 15% balancing payment to be paid in the second quarter of next year.

Minister McConalogue said: “The scheme reflects the commitment of the Government to the sheep sector in Ireland and provides a significant financial boost to the individual farmers and the sector in general.”

Additional year

In 2019 the scheme issued payments totalling €16.8m, paid to 18,594 farmers.

With an additional €17m in funding allocated to the scheme under Budget 2021, it is set to continue into 2021.

Minister McConalogue added: “The additional year of the scheme will be opening in February 2021 and as in previous years there will be an opportunity for new entrants to the sector to join the scheme.”

The Scheme is co-funded by the European Union as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme, 2014-2020.

Beef finishers

Meanwhile, IFA president Tim Cullinan has welcomed confirmation that funding under the €50m Beef Finisher Payment (BFP) will be issued to farmers this week.

The scheme was introduced to compensate beef farmers for losses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The payment amounts to approximately €100 per head to all eligible applicants and relates to losses incurred by farmers during the period 1 February to 12 June 2020.

More than 28,000 farmers applied for the scheme. The average payment per farmer will be in the region of €1,600, with farmers applying for just over 16 animals on average.

Reference years

The payments were welcomed by IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy who also said sheep farmers would be happy with news that the scheme will run again in next year.

“This provides new entrants with the opportunity to join the scheme, which is something IFA has campaigned for,” Dennehy said.

However, he added that the current reference years do not reflect current flock numbers on many sheep farms. He said it would need to be updated if generational renewal was to be encouraged on sheep farms.

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