Scrapping of Agri Scheme spells funding cut for Donegal Sheep Farmers – Ó Domhnaill

Donegal Senator and Fianna Fáil Seanad spokesperson on Agriculture & Food Brian Ó Domhnaill has expressed concern about the abolition of the Sheep Grassland Scheme.  Minister Simon Coveney is scrapping this essential programme without establishing a sustainable replacement, which will lead to a reduction in payments to sheep farmers in Donegal over the next five years.

Senator Ó Domhnaill commented, “I am extremely worried about the decision to integrate the Sheep Grassland Scheme into the Single Farm Payment.  It’s a precarious move, which will have a major negative impact on sheep farmers across the county.  These farmers have already been disproportionately targeted by this Minister.  In the 2012 Budget, payments under the Sheep Grasslands Scheme were slashed by €4m.  Funding at farm level reduced from around €8.50 to €6.35 per ewe, and now Minister Coveney is scrapping the programme altogether.

“The abolition of this scheme, without any sustainable replacement will see sheep farmers’ income reduced by 20% every year for the next five years.  This loss in revenue comes at a time when farmers in Donegal are already struggling on very low incomes.  In the past year sheep farmers’ income has fallen by almost 40%, with the average income now standing at €11,160.  Sheep farming is particularly important in the county.  There are almost 450,000 sheep in Donegal and the loss of this scheme will make an already challenging environment even more difficult for these farmers.

“The Minister is once again targeting small family farmers and choosing to ignore the massive impact the loss of this scheme will have on them.  He claims farmers will see a boost in revenue once the scheme is integrated into the Single Farm Payment, however any increase in funding will be temporary, and will be wiped out completely as the payments are slashed over the next five years.  Most low land farmers and practically all hill farmers will be hit by this move and yet Minister Coveney is continuing to ignore the reality of the situation.

“The impact of the amalgamation of these schemes could prove detrimental to the industry in Donegal and could affect the sustainability of the sector.  I’m urging the Minister to rethink his hands-off approach and to engage with sheep farmers to fully understand how this change will affect them.  The Minister needs to call a halt to this process and reverse his decision to scrap this essential scheme.

Posted: Jun 3, 2014     |     Categories: Uncategorized