Farm Ireland

Tuesday 25 October 2016

A case of trying to pull the wool over department eyes

Published 29/06/2016 | 02:30

Sheep fencing can prove more costly than single strand electric fencing.
Sheep fencing can prove more costly than single strand electric fencing.

SHEEP fencing grants must be ring-fenced for farmers with flocks as it emerged grants could potentially be issued to farmers with no sheep.

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Eagle-eyed ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks, who spotted the loophole in the TAMS II grant application paperwork, questioned the logic of issuing grants for sheep fencing to farmers with no sheep.

"As it stands, applications for sheep fencing are being accepted by the Department of Agriculture from farmers who don't have any sheep - this is an unacceptable situation," he said.

ICSA called for the money allocated to sheep fencing to be ring-fenced for sheep farmers. "Sheep farmers have waited long enough for a share of TAMS money. Sheep fencing is very important for better grassland management and, of course, vital to keep sheep at home.

"It is also important to note that the sheep enterprise does not lend itself to huge capital expenditure and this is one of the few measures that sheep farmers can realistically benefit from."

However, the number of farmers from other sectors looking to apply for sheep fencing is unknown. Sheep fencing can prove more costly than single strand electric fencing.

He said there was no issue in allowing new entrants to sheep farming access the scheme provided they remained in sheep farming for five years afterwards.


Due to cashflow issues on farms, Mr Brooks also called for an option to allow sheep farmers carry out the approved fencing in two stages to reduce the financial burden.

"Cashflow problems affect many sheep farmers making it difficult for them to undertake a large fencing project in one go," he said.

"In addition, as the TAMS approval and payment processes remain very slow, flexibility needs to be introduced."

Meanwhile, the ICMSA called for the simplifications agreed on the Bord Bia beef and lamb quality assurance scheme to be rolled out as soon as possible.

The ICMSA's Michael Guinan said it was important that farmers were able to benefit from the more flexible rules including the 'close-out' option where farmers would resolve issues during a certain time period without being suspended from the scheme.

He said this was agreed as far back as late 2015 and six months later farmers were still unable to benefit from it. "Bord Bia need to finalise and address the outstanding issues and ensure that many of the elements in the scheme that unnecessarily impact on farmers are removed," he said.

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