Irish minister for agriculture, fisheries and food, Brendan Smith, has announced details of 2 new on-farm investment schemes designed to improve the standards of animal welfare for poultry production and sow housing. In a first reaction, the Irish Farming Association (IFA) said it is not enough.
The schemes – worth up to €29 mln – are part of a €113 mln targeted scheme for on-farm investment to support a series of specific categories of farmers, and focused on supporting productive investment, and are part of the revised Rural Development Plan 2007-2013. They follow an earlier €54 mln grassland sheep scheme, which the minister launched in April.
"These schemes reflect the continuing importance the government places on the maintenance of the highest standards of animal welfare in the Irish farming sector," Smith said.
"They represent a significant investment of a maximum of almost €30 mln in 2 key areas of production and will be of considerable benefit to pig farmers in the conversion of loose housing for sows as well as assisting poultry producers in the conversion to enriched cages, free-range or barn systems."
Under the terms of both schemes, grant-aid will be available at a standard rate of 40% for investment in sow housing and laying hen facilities, which will meet the standards laid down in the relevant EU Directives on animal welfare.
"Having launched the grassland sheep scheme in April, I was particularly anxious to give priority to the launch of these 2 schemes as the new EU Directives come into force at the end of 2011 and 2012 for the laying hens and sows, respectively," said the minister.
Both schemes are now open and applications for the new schemes will be accepted by the Department up to the end of June 2011, for poultry producers, and the end of June 2012, in the case of sow house investments.
IFA pigs committee chairman Tim Cullinan said that the introduction of the scheme, while welcome is not enough to help pig producers comply with the regulations. Farmers in this sector already have to meet very high animal welfare standards imposed by EU Regulations but the fact remains that these costs are not reflected in market prices.
"Naturally a high standard of welfare is of the most utmost importance to Irish pig meat producers but European policies must allow producers to farm in an economically sustainable manner. Pig producers have suffered the worst losses ever recorded in the last number of years between low prices and high feed costs," added Cullinan.
"Minister Brendan Smith must now make it a priority issue to extend the implementation date or secure in Europe provisions to protect Irish farmers from lower standard imports and excessive regulations," Cullinan concluded.
Full details of both schemes, including their respective terms and conditions, are at agriculture.gov.ie.
Irish Farming Association (IFA)