Dáil Éireann - Volume 543 - 06 November, 2001

Written Answers. - Agricultural Payments.

217. Mr. N. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if the Government will support the proposal by farmers in relation to the procurement of an increased ewe premium of £25 plus rural world and extensification premium for sheep farmers. [27195/01]

233. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development his negotiating position on the reform of the European sheep policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25970/01]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 233 together.

The main element in the EU Commission's proposals for reform of the sheepmeat regime is that the current variable ewe premium should be replaced by a fixed ewe premium of 21. In the negotiations on the reform my aim is to ensure that the best possible support regime is put in place for Irish sheep producers. In the discussions I have been pressing for the fixed premium to be set at a level which ensures a reasonable income for sheep producers and bears some relationship with the premium payable in other sectors. I am also anxious to ensure that the new supplementary premium, which replaces the rural world premium, continues to be paid to all existing beneficiaries in disadvantaged areas. The question of the introduction of an extensification premium for sheep producers in the context of the reform of the regime has also been raised by me.