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The Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food released the following statement:

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today announced details of two new on-farm investment schemes designed to improve the standards of animal welfare in sow housing and for poultry production.  The schemes, which are worth a maximum €29m, are part of a €113m targeted scheme for on-farm investment to support a number of specific categories of farmers and focused on supporting productive investment and are part of the revised Rural Development Plan 2007-2013.  Today’s schemes follow an earlier €54m grassland sheep scheme, which the Minister launched in April last.

Launching the schemes, Minister Smith said that: “they reflect the continuing importance that the Government places on the maintenance of the highest standards of animal welfare in the Irish farming sector.  The schemes represent a significant investment of a maximum of almost €30m in two 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 per cent for investment in sow housing and laying hen facilities which will meet the standards laid down in the relevant EU Directives on animal welfare.  The Minister said that “having launched the grassland sheep scheme in April, I was particularly anxious to give priority to the launch of these two schemes as the new EU Directives come into force at the end of 2011 and 2012 for the laying hens and sows, respectively.”

Both schemes are now open and applications for the new schemes will be accepted by the Department up to end-June 2011, for poultry producers, and end-June 2012, in the case of sow house investments.  Applications for both schemes will be measured against selection criteria, which will, inter alia, ensure that funding is available for the receipt of applications until the respective closing dates.

As is usual in such cases, the Minister confirmed that work cannot be started by farmers until written approval to commence such work has been issued by the Department.  All work will have to be completed and a payment claim lodged with the Department by the dates of entry into force of the relevant EU Animal Welfare Directives.

Full details of both schemes are available on the Department’s website.