The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have called on Minister Malcom Noonan to ensure farmers and landowners are properly reimbursed for the burden of SAC (Special Areas of Conservation) and SPA (Special Protected Areas) designations through a direct payment.
The call was made by INHFA President Vincent Roddy after a meeting with Minister Noonan which was attended by farming representatives and other industry stakeholders.
In outlining the concerns of over 30,000 farmers that are impacted Roddy stressed “how these farmers are curtailed in their farming activity through the 38 Activities Requiring Consent (ARC’s) and this burden must be recognized and addressed.”
Through these ARC’s farmers are, he added “required to consider on a daily basis how any proposed farming action could be at variance with any of these activities. As these ARC’s include normal farming activity such as fencing, topping, spreading lime as well as chemical and organic fertiliser, it is now quite clear that there is a transactional cost to farming designated lands.”
Since the introduction of these designations’ farmers have had to rely on Agri-Environment Schemes as a means of reimbursement. This stated the INHFA President “doesn’t recognise the financial burden imposed through the designation with farmers paid for the management of the designated sites through a payment process that has fallen from €242/ha in REPS to €79/ha under GLAS.”
“As these agri-environment schemes had a maximum payment level irrespective of whether your land is designated or not, then the merit of only paying farmers through this process is very questionable” maintained Roddy
In addition to a baseline payment for designations, the INHFA leader also called for action on the devaluation of land resulting from a designation.
On this the association are calling for the establishment of a State backed fund to cover any loss incurred as a result of designation where land has been sold. For example, if a specific type of non-designated land in the area is selling for €5,000/acre and due to the designation sells for €2000/acre then this fund would compensate the seller for the €3000 lost as a result of the designation.
This concluded the INHFA president “is the very least any landowner should expect if their land has been earmarked to deliver a public good through the process of an SAC or SPA designation.”