Grassland Sheep Scheme to pay up

After a two-month delay, it has been confirmed that payments under the EU Grassland Sheep Scheme will begin issuing from 1st February.

After a two-month delay, it has been confirmed that payments under the EU Grassland Sheep Scheme will begin issuing from 1st February.

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith said the payment of €10 per ewe will start being delivered this week to farmers who have been cleared to receive it.

The fund, which will give Irish sheep farmers a total of €18 million per annum for the next three years, was initially due to be paid on December 8 last.

A spokesperson for the Irish Farmers' Association's National Sheep Committee said the delivery of the fund had been held up by technical queries at EU level which have now been resolved.

Welcoming the news, Leinster MEP Liam Aylward said the €54 million scheme should provide a much-needed boost for the sheep sector as it heads into another lambing season.

He added that sheep industry, which was hit hard by the severe winter weather, has been in "vital need of assistance" for some time. The Fianna Fil MEP was one of the first to campaign at EU level for unspent CAP funding to be allocated to shore up the ailing sheep industry.

"Sheep farming is an extremely important sector of the Irish agri-food industry and these funds are a key tool to halt its decline and ensure that the sheep sector will be viable and competitive into the future," said Mr Aylward.