The new farming organisation The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have called on Minister Coveney to ensure the spirit of the CAP deal which involves a convergence of payments is upheld. An increase in the amount of Department of Agriculture inspections targeted at marginal land types has resulted in large tracts of land being made ineligible. At their Galway launch which was held in Maam Cross on Wednesday 11th March it was stated from the floor that the Department are attempting to reduce the amount of money required for convergence by making as much marginal land as possible ineligible. As marginal land would in most cases have lower payments then the advantages of this are obvious especially as this is a reference year. The predominant concern of the 350 farmers that attended the Maam Cross meeting was land eligibility. Questions were asked regarding what criteria the department are using to determine the ineligibility of land and also what qualifications local department of agriculture staff have to determine this. Indeed at national level one has to ask the question what environmental expertise does the Department of Agriculture have in order to assess the environmental condition of Natura land taking into account its conservation status and should the NPWS have a role in advising the Department of Ag in this matter. The fairness and independence of the departments appeals process was also queried at the Maam Cross meeting as there is no defined criteria set down to form an appeal. INHFA National Chairperson Brendan O Malley stated that “farmers on the most marginalised land are living in fear of seeing their incomes being wiped-out and facing a very uncertain future”.
INHFA personnel are also dealing with issues concerning the new GLAS, especially so after the Departments CAP information meeting in Donegal. At this meeting Department staff were asked, if a farmer CARRIES OUT ALL the actions prescribed for him under GLAS and the Commonage Management Plan will this protect him from penalties should he face a departmental inspection. Department staff were very clear, that he would not be protected and penalties would apply across both pillar1 and pillar 2 payments and responsibility would lay with the planner and farmer. Under these circumstances participation in GLAS especially for commonage farmers will involve collective responsibility where a breach cannot be attributed to one farmer. This is something we have a major problem with. The department need to accept that the actions prescribed in a commonage management plan is acceptable to them in order to give farmers confidence that once the plan is implemented then farmers are not in a penalty position.
Launching of new Organisation
INHFA County launches continue with the Sligo launch being held last night at the OX Mountain Heritage Centre while the Mayo Launch will be held next Monday night 30th March in the Castlecourt Hotel Westport starting at 8.30pm.
If you need any further clarification on points in press release please contact either of the following people
Henry O’Donnell (Donegal) 062670742
Brendan Joyce (Galway) 0872226737
Colm O’Donnell (Sligo) 0863892279
John Moran (Mayo) 0868306586