The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association has expressed major concerns regarding some elements of the budget while welcoming others. National President Colm O’Donnell outlined how the increased budget for the ANC Scheme is a clear positive stating “how this was a major part of our pre-budget submission where we outlined the need for increased funding of €23m in order to help protect farmers operating on land with very high constraints.”
The increased budget he continued “which will stand at €250m must ensure payment rates reflect the actual land constraint. With this in mind we are encouraging the continued targeting of payments along the same lines of the 2018 increase. This saw farmers receive up to €600 in additional payments.”
On the proposed €20m beef pilot scheme O’Donnell stated that anything that puts money into the sector is clearly a positive, however the scheme does seem complicated and if it is designed to help address climate change then a scheme that targets extensive grazing can we believe deliver better outcomes. With this in mind we would ask the Minister to look again at our proposals on a sustainable suckler cow scheme with a payment model based on the old sheep grassland model and paying up to €4,000 per farmer.”
Of major concern to the organisation is the proposal to increase the spending on forestry by over €100m. The INHFA he stated “has and will continue to express concerns around the current forestry proposals that continue to promote non-native conifers and Sitka Spruce (the ‘hero’ tree) as the way forward. In recognising the right tree can provide a major benefit, especially in terms of carbon sequestration we believe that this additional funding should be targeted towards providing a life time payment for native broad-leaf trees in recognition of the public good that these trees provide.”
The Farm Leader concluded by saying said the organisation will do a full assessment on the implications for INHFA members on Budget 2019 in the next 2 days and will issue more detailed response on those Budget changes then.