The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is calling on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to carefully consider the Terms and Conditions of the Basic Payment Scheme for 2016 in light of the recent flooding.
“Upland farm management,particularly,the natural soakage of uplands, boglands, heaths and other environmentally sensitive lands will play an essential role in future flood management” according to Mr. Colm O’Donnell, Policy Spokesperson of the INHFA.
He added: “It is essential that DAFM reconsiders their approach to land eligibility to reflect the fact that areas of scrub, dense furz and other ecological features that they previously considered ineligible for payment but does provide natural soakage reducing the flow of water to areas at risk of flooding downstream”.
By declaring areas of dense natural growth ineligible under the Basic Payment Scheme, the natural progression for farmers is to remove such ecological features from their lands.
The INHFA acknowledges that due to its previous lobbying, DAFM has made scattered scrub eligible, but only if it constitutes less than 10 percent of the overall parcel size.
Mr O’Donnell stated that: “More needs to be done on land eligibility and within the available mechanisms in Pillar II (Rural Development) to improve the situation in the Irish uplands”. He added that: “The European Commission’s recent statement was very significant and called on the Irish State to work with the Nature Directives and come up with a more holistic approach to flood management”.
According to the INFHA, this should include assistance to farmers in upland areas to develop native woodlands and other conservation areas. These will have the effect of retaining nutrients in the soil and slowing the flow of water from the hills into the rivers and then towards the built up areas down-stream.
“While other remedial works on rivers may assist downstream, it is essential that farmers, particularly on uplands and other high nature value (HNV) farmland are provided with assistance to ensure their lands are in a suitable condition to alleviate excessive water in future. There is particular scope on Natura 2000 sites” Mr. O’Donnell added.
Proper farm management and nature conservation can work hand in hand but the state bodies need to work together with the farmers to achieve a solution to these problems.
If further information is required please contact Colm O’Donnell 0863892279