Details still not released on sheep fencing plan
Talks on €8m scheme continue
Talks are continuing between Department of Agriculture officials and the IFA on the details of the €8m sheep fencing and mobile-handling scheme, although differences have arisen regarding farmer eligibility for the package.
A Department spokesman insisted the scheme would be open to farmers by November 1 but he would not be drawn on the specifics of the initiative.
However, it has emerged that priority is to be given to certain categories of applicants.
These include farmers who are under-35, those in Disadvantaged Areas and farmers involved in the sheep improvement programme.
It is understood that the Department has also proposed giving priority to farmers involved in lamb quality-assurance schemes.
The scheme guidelines specify that the eligible grant aid is 40pc of total expenditure and is capped at a maximum of €4,000. Since the total fund is limited to €8m, access to the grants is likely to be limited to around 2,500 farmers.
IFA sheep committee chairman James Murphy said the IFA has objected strongly to the restrictive eligibility and selection criteria being imposed by the Department, which, he said, would deny genuine sheep farmers the opportunity to apply for the scheme.
Mr Murphy said the move by the Department to try and introduce selection criteria based on the lowest cost estimate from applicants was unacceptable. He said this was a clear attempt to pitch farmer against farmer in "a race to the bottom".