1. Any menu of measures made available to farmers to choose from must be available to all farmers without DISCRIMINATION
2. Measures must have a 50% top-up on Hill Farms to cover the higher implementation costs of such measures and to reflect the very poor financial returns from Hill Sheep Farming.
3. Flexibilities in any potential reference year being used in the scheme for farmers who has to adjust sheep numbers as a result of complying with a Commonage Management Plan.
4. Flexibilities in reference years for young farmers who have not yet reached their optimum stocking rates.
The commitment of €25 million to the Sheep industry under this Scheme is something that we welcome as it provides the opportunity to deliver for the industry and in particular the crippled Hill Sheep Sector.
Significance of Hill Ewe
Despite the importance of the hill ewe to the national sheep industry (delivering almost half of the national breeding flock) hill farmers continue to see a loss of €3 per ewe based on Teagasc figures. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. We need to find a way to make the industry profitable and the re-establishment of the light lamb trade would go a long way towards this.
Market Price & EID Tagging
With the Factories, Board Bia, Sheep Ireland, Teagasc and others highlighting how EID tagging can increase traceability and substantially help in the marketing of Lamb. The INHFA insists that if EID tagging is to be a compulsory measure under the sheep scheme then the onus must be placed on the factories to deliver for hill sheep farmers and play their part in putting the sector back on a sound economic footing. This is why if introduced the INHFA believe EID Tagging should be on a trial basis for the duration of the scheme. If the factories fail to deliver on the markets and price to the farmer then EID Tagging should be re-assessed.
As the Scheme is expected to involve a welfare element with farmers expected to carry out a number of measures from a menu of options. The INHFA are adamant that enough flexibility is provided to ensure all sheep farmers have equal access to the same measures without discrimination. For example to have a fly strike or foot rot measure only for lowland farmers would not be acceptable when many hill farmers struggle with these issues at significant cost. We also have many members who have both a lowland and hill flock so any option list needs to be consistent across the sector.
Extra Costs on Hills
With a much higher cost in delivering any measure in a hill situation we are calling for a 50% top-up to be applied to all these measures on mountain type farms. The old Sheep Grassland Scheme had a top-up built in for farmers farming ‘mountain type land’ as an acknowledgment of the challenges in the sector and that scheme had no measures to be delivered within it.
With the department outlining to us how any measures to be delivered must be verifiable the following are options we consider could form part of a menu of options.
Sampling for Fluke; Sampling for Worms; Foot rot management measures; Purchasing of a parentage recorded ram; Purchasing of a star rated ram; Fly strike control measures; Providing mineral supplements to ewes; Training store lambs to eat meal;
Commonage & Young Farmers
The INHFA have concerns that farmers participating in a Commonage Management Plan(s) (CMP) may lose out as a result of this participation due to the requirement of a reference year in the scheme. To combat this we are making the following recommendations;
1. Farmers who may be forced to destock under a CMP must be allowed to use 2015 as their reference year for payment purpose for the duration of the scheme.
2. Farmers who either have to come up to an individual minimum or help deliver a commonage minimum under a CMP must be allowed to use a rolling reverence year until such time that their required stock is delivered.
3. A rolling reference year should also be in place for young farmers who joined in the last three years and who may not yet have reached their optimum stocking rate.