The IFA has called for a strong environmental scheme to be put in place for upland areas which acknowledges the contribution hill farmers make in terms of protecting the environment, carbon mitigation and the provision of public goods.
Opening the IFA 2019 national hill sheep forum in Glendalough, Co Wicklow, 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 bring to climate action.
This level of support is necessary to sustain sheep numbers in hill areas
Healy said: “This can only 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.”
Prioritising hill sheep
IFA national sheep chair 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/ewe in the Sheep Welfare scheme. He said the IFA has proposed a targeted payment of €30/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.”
In relation to the environmental schemes, national hill committee chair Flor McCarthy said the current GLAS scheme is not rewarding the environmental good that hill farms provide.
“The current max payment at €5,000 is too low and should be increased to €10,000 in the next CAP,” McCarthy said.