Following meetings with the E.U. commission and senior officials within the DAFM, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has been informed that an uplands specific category within the new ANC review is both “technically and legally possible.”
In response to a direct question as to ” whether the current mountain sheep grazing (MSG) designated areas could be replaced with an uplands specific constraint category”, the response from both the commission and the DAFM is that it is an option that could be considered. This option would mean that these specifically constrained areas would be mapped from the current Less Favoured Areas (LFA) along with the offshore Islands without going through the biophysical screening. This option, according to INHFA CAP Chairman, Colm O’Donnell, must be considered in the review if the MSG areas were to be diluted in the new scheme.
Department officials agreed with INHFA that these upland areas have specific constraints that could be clearly mapped, such as Natura 2000 areas, i.e. SAC, SPA, lands within the DAFM commonage container files, and habitat lands of similar character, all of which are currently in the Mountain Sheep Grazing areas.During the recent regional meetings hosted by the INHFA,politicians backed the retention of the MSG areas as a separate category and that payments must be proportionate to the levels of constraint.
Concluding, O’Donnell stated that all options must be considered as part of the consultation process with stakeholders.