Dairy and beef farmers will have to sign up to a new animal welfare scheme as part of the next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) or risk losing payments.

The welfare scheme will be incorporated into Pillar I payments, which farmers currently automatically qualify for without taking part in any additional schemes.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that the 25% of funds ringfenced for eco-schemes in Pillar I in the next CAP was “likely” to include a specific welfare aspect and this would include “any farmer”.

The minister explicitly said that this new scheme would include sheep farmers, who currently receive €10/ewe through the Sheep Welfare Scheme, funding through the Rural Development Programme and the National Exchequer, for measures such as scanning, dosing and dung-sampling animals.

Over the four years since the inception of the Sheep Welfare Scheme, it has been worth €66.9m and it’s not known if this money will remain ringfenced for farmers’ payments.

Minister McConalogue was speaking in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Maireád Farrell and added that his Department was working with the Department of Public Expenditure, “to provide indicative funding for co-financing of the rural development aspects of the CAP Strategic Plan (CSP).”

With the 30% Greening payment removed from each farmers’ entitlement pot in the next CAP cycle, farmers will be anxious to access the new eco schemes to recoup some of that money.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski was even more adamant on his belief in an animal welfare scheme saying: “We will support them [farmers] with increased direct payments under the first pillar of the CAP.”