Agri-environment scheme must accommodate all farmers – INHFA

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association are calling on Minister McConalogue to guarantee access to all farmers that are willing to take on environmental measures under the new Agri-Environment Climate Measure (AECM).

Speaking on this, National President Vincent Roddy expressed concern on the proposed budget and the number of farmers that it will accommodate. With an annual budget allocation of €300m supporting 50,000 participants, it will he stated “see a large number of farmers unable to access support under this scheme as they seek to deliver improved environmental outcomes on their farms.”

With climate change and biodiversity loss a major priority for this Government and farming central to that, it is he stressed “vital that those farmers who are willing to engage are supported appropriately. This is why we are calling on the Minister to go back to Cabinet to secure an improved budget.”

In addressing details outlined on the AECM under Ireland’s CAP Plan, Roddy was adamant that both the Co-operation or General streams must ensure that farming activity is central in any final plan. “Ultimately farmers want to farm and the key to success here will be accommodating this, in addition to the environmental ambition.”

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine published maps detailing the Co-operation stream areas late last week; and announced the commencement of the tendering process for the management of the eight areas. The INHFA were, stated Roddy “inundated with calls from farmers enquiring for details on whether their lands were in these areas or not.“

The INHFA leader called on the Department to provide clarity to all farmers as to which AECM stream they may qualify for, stating how “for some farmers it is very clear whether they are in or not, however there are many on the border of these areas where that detail is not apparent.”

In response to suggestions made by some that the proposed AECM will only support hobby farmers and landowners the INHFA President insisted that “that the best way to deliver for many of the areas detailed under the co-operation stream was through sustainable grazing”. This he added “was of course something that shouldn’t be just confined to the co-operation stream areas or even to farms that join the new AECM.”

It is he continued “vital to also recognise that many of the co-operation stream areas are also designated Natura habitats that come with major restrictions that limits farmer income and have done so for the last twenty years. When developing plans for these areas these restrictions are something that will need to be addressed.

In concluding Roddy stressed the need for Minister McConalogue and the Cabinet “to reassess the overall AECM budget, so they can accommodate and satisfactorily reward all farmers that want to deliver on improved environmental outcomes that will benefit all of Ireland’s population.”