A new multi-million euro scheme to bring pig and poultry units up to new EU animal welfare standards has been launched in Ireland this week.
It is estimated that poultry will get over half of the €29m (£23m) available from the rural development pot, with egg producers receiving grant aid to cover 40% of the cost of conversion to enriched cages, free-range or barn systems.
The minimum investment to be eligible for aid is €10,000 (£8300) per holding, and there is a maximum limit of €32 (£26.60) per bird.
Ireland still has a long way to go to meet the new EU standard. There are around 90 egg producers with 1.25m caged laying hens in the Republic, of which less than 100,000 hens are in enriched cages.
Initial reaction from egg producers is that there may not be enough time to complete the conversion by 2012. The scheme is only concern until 30 June 2011 and appplications must be approved before materials are purchased and buildings started.
Projects eligible include the construction of new buildings and associated site preparation costs, and relevant fixtures and fittings for enriched cages or alternative systems.
Conversion of existing structures may be eligible for grant-aid provided the estimated costs of conversion do not exceed 70% of an equivalent new structure.
Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan said it was essential that the “selective criteria” being used to share out the funds should not discriminate against any farmer who was looking to meet the new EU standards.
Agriculture minister Brendan Smith said he had asked chief agricultural advisers of all the main banks to put relevant credit in place to help farmers find the remaining funds to complete conversion ahead of the 2012 conventional cage ban.
* More details of scheme can be found on the department of agriculture’s website