Following a meeting with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) highlighted the impact of restrictions imposed through the Natura 2000 land designations.INHFA President Vincent Roddy outlined to the Tánaiste how farmers operating on these lands are seeing their farming activity and income undermined. This he stated “is something that must be addressed with a baseline payment for the burden of these designations as an urgent requirement.”
In addressing this, Roddy also highlighted how the Natura 2000 network which comprises SAC and SPA designations is delivering €2.8b each year to the Irish economy based on the EU Nature Fitness Check from 2017. This he continued “works out at €3,000/ha but farmers are only able access €79/ha through GLAS”.This is, stressed the INHFA President “ a major issue that must be addressed before any further discussions on new designations as proposed in the EU Biodiversity Strategy.” This he added is “why we need the Government to deliver the necessary budget to deliver a minimum payment per hectare of at least €150/ha/year.”
In their meeting the INHFA also highlighted ongoing concerns around public access and the impact this is having on farmers, especially in relation to dog attacks on sheep and insurance concerns in the event of walkers getting injured.
Another issue highlighted by the Association was the role of women in Irish agriculture. In addressing this, Connie Walsh outlined the vital role women play here. She highlighted that “according to CSO figures just 13,000 women are ‘officially’ farming and in receipt of farm payments in Ireland while 70,000 women work on farms every day” and stated “the policy supports in the upcoming CAP must be inclusive. The culture must change and women need to be recognized for their contribution. We need to see women involved at a senior level in all farming organisations.”
On the proposed CAP Plan Roddy reminded the Tánaiste of the commitment he made in February 2018 to support the overall CAP budget. The commitment, which amounted to in excess of €500m a year. The INHFA leader stated that “it is vital that the government supports our suckler and sheep farmers through the Pillar 2 Programme. “In welcoming the increased Pillar 2 budget of almost €200m/year Roddy informed the Tánaiste that the new budget will only bring us back to the Pillar 2 allocation for the 2007-13 CAP period. This the INHFA President was anxious to point out “would not be acceptable in any other sector and should not be acceptable to farmers either.”
The INHFA are, stated Roddy “calling for an additional €200m/year to support all sheep and suckler farmers and provide access to the new AECM for all farmers that are willing to engage and deliver for our environment.”