The proposed eligibility requirement for farmers in the Sheep Improvement Scheme to be participants in a Bord Bia Sustainable Lamb Assurance Scheme has been removed.

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that those seeking to take part in the scheme will no longer have to be Bord Bia quality assured.

Farm representative groups, including the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), had called for the removal of the eligibility requirement first suggested by the Department during consultation on the draft CAP plan.

According to the IFA, imposing the Bord Bia assurance scheme would have excluded 1m ewes from eligibility.

IFA sheep chair Seán Dennehy said the €20m scheme, which has a €12/ewe payment rate, would have only been available to 1.7m ewes and would have excluded 1m ewes under the previous eligibility requirement.

Sheep Improvement Scheme

The scheme aims to build on the progress made by the Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS) by providing support for actions that improve animal health and welfare in the sheep sector.

In July, Department officials also outlined the basis for the inclusion of the Bord Bia Sustainable Lamb Assurance Scheme requirement, stating that it would aid the sheep sector’s ability to grow its export market.

The Sheep Improvement Scheme will contribute to improved welfare through targeted intervention in a number of areas, including lameness control, parasite control, flystrike and appropriate supplementation.

Participating farmers will choose to undertake actions appropriate to whether they have a lowland or a hill flock.