As the sixth year of the Sheep Welfare Scheme was announced this week, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has called for all new applicants to be welcomed to join.
Currently, the Department of Agriculture considers a new entrant to be a person ‘who has acquired a herd in the past year in their name or who has been added in the last year’.
A person who has not farmed breeding ewes in the last two years in their herd number is also considered eligible to be considered a new entrant.
Speaking on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “Over the past few years, the budget outlined for the Sheep Welfare Scheme has not been fully allocated. But yet farmers wishing to partake in the sixth year of the scheme are being turned away.
“I have been contacted by a number of farmers in the past week who have been told they do not qualify as they are not considered new entrants.
“Given that this is the final year of the scheme as it stands, due to the introduction of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), I am calling on the Minister to relax the rules and allow all applicants to benefit from the scheme once they adhere to the measures.
“The decision to amend the reference year for existing participants is a welcome development, allowing farmers to choose the higher option between the existing reference year or their 2017 sheep census return.
“Given that the deadline for applications to the sixth year of the Sheep Welfare Scheme closes on February 1st, I hope that Minister McConalogue will move swiftly in order to allow all applicants have an equal chance of availing of the benefits of the scheme,” Deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.