Following the announcement by Minister McConalogue to seek an amendment to Ireland’s Rural Development Plan for the Sheep Welfare Scheme reference year. The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have called on the Minister for an up to date reference year which they maintain should be 2020 or possibly the average of 2019 and 2020.
National President Colm O’Donnell outlined how the organisation have for some time sought changes to this reference year and have lobbied the Minister at National level and at county level in Donegal.
The acceptance for a change in the reference year was stated the INHFA President “first acknowledged publicly by the Minister at the INHFA National AGM held last November.”
In welcoming the Ministers decision to move on this O’Donnell stressed how “a reference year of 2017 falls well short of what the organisation and farmers need.” Since the scheme commenced in 2016 farmers have, he continued “seen a significant change in their initial reference numbers which was based on the farmers average flock numbers from 2014 and 2015.
In adopting an up to date reference year, we can “ensure better support for the many young farmers and new entrants that have increased their stock numbers and work towards ensuring as much of the allocated budget of €25m is used in supporting an expanding sheep sector.”
In concluding O’Donnell expressed the hope that the Minister and others will recognise how a 2017 reference year will deliver little in terms of additional income for the sector and support a more ambitious reference year of 2020.