The new reference year of 2017 and the €10/ewe payment under the Sheep Welfare Scheme were among the issues raised at a meeting of Connacht IFA on Tuesday night.

Mayo sheep farmer Maria Ryan said that the payment in the scheme needs to be increased to €30/ewe.

She said she was disappointed at the news that the Department was seeking an updated reference year of 2017.

“It’s historical at this stage going back over four years. Can we not push for a reference year that is more up to date, for example 2019 or 2020 or an average of both?

“I feel this will have a negative impact on new entrants and those who are genuinely trying to build up their flock.

“I ask that [the] IFA pushes for 19/20 or an average of those two years to be used as the reference year to get it up to date,” she said.

Payment rise

Sheep farmer Pat Chambers also called for the scheme payment to rise, even if only by another €5 to €15.

In response, IFA president Tim Cullinan said the IFA has to continue to try to get a payment up to €30.

“We did meet with the Minister last week, his initial intention was that he was going to make very little or no movement on this.

“It’s like all situations, when we set out on lobbying on anything we don’t always get exactly what we looked for,” he said.

He later said that even an increase to €15/ewe would be something - “every fiver we get is important,” he said.

Straw scheme

As revealed in last week’s Irish Farmers Journal a €10m straw scheme will see over 150,000t of straw chopped and farmers paid €250/ha to incorporate straw.

Leitrim farmer Kevin Comiskey cited sheep and suckler farmer concern with the scheme, in relation to any impact on bedding.

“The straw issue again is coming up. People have no problem with support for the grain sector getting €10m, if they were getting €20m they’d even like it better.

“But the problem is with the straw being ploughed back into the ground, it’s going to have a huge impact here in the west of Ireland or with any suckler or sheep farmers for bedding issues,” he said.

His point was echoed by Martin Murphy from Galway, who said straw coming from the south or southeast to the west is costing €25 and €30 per bale.

“If we have that cut back on straw, I know that people that bring it from the east were looking for €35 or €40 for a bale of straw, it just would not be manageable,” he said.


The requirement for farmers in the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) to apply a 5% cut in organic nitrogen on their farm was also raised at the Connacht IFA meeting.

In a question to Cullinan, Gabriel Costello said in his mind the real issue around the BEAM controversy is “centred around the Department’s reluctance, refusal, resistance, whatever you want to call it, to use AIMS via some kind of an online calculator to help us calculate the nitrogen”.

“They seem to be sending out statements that are completely useless.

“What I’m wondering is how come this doesn’t seem to have been highlighted in any of the conversations either by yourselves, by the Department or politicians. It’s a technical issue. It’s something that you have them up over a barrel on.

“Seven months into the scheme and there’s nothing happening on that line.

“It’s a technical issue, I think your approach is completely wrong,” he said.

Martin Murphy called for the IFA to push for a six-month extension, so that farmers could meet the target.

Cullinan said it was the IFA’s aim to get rid of the 5% reduction completely.

“It’s something we’re putting a lot of pressure on with the Minister. I do not want to see €40m going back, particularly going back to Europe,” he said.

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