With the European Parliament set to sign off on the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) this February the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have written to all MEPs and Oireachtas members outlining an amendment that will safeguard CAP payments and promote voluntary engagement over the compulsory involvement currently favoured through this law.
The proposed amendment is as follows
The obligation for Member States (MS) to achieve the restoration target in the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) shall not imply an obligation for farmers to restore, re-establish or rewet their agricultural land. Nor does it imply that these agricultural lands are not in good condition and shall be eligible to continue to be supported under current and future CAP Programmes. Engagement with the NRL shall be on a voluntary basis above and beyond CAP interventions.
Speaking on this INHFA President Vincent Roddy detailed how the proposed law in its current form is a direct threat to CAP payments. This assessment has he stated “being formed on the basis of an analysis of the compromise document on Nature Restoration which was agreed last November.”
Here Roddy pointed to Article 9 (4) which he stated “implies by definition that all drained agricultural peat soils are needing restoration which means that on the day the law comes into force the legal status of this land will change to being officially not in good environmental condition.”
This he continued is a major threat to securing CAP payments as eligibility for these payments is subject to these lands being in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). While these drained peatlands are an immediate concern there is, he added “also concern around other lands subject to restoration covered under Article 4 of the law.”
The amendment detailed which other farming organisations have indicated support for, will maintain Roddy “protect farmer payments in current and future CAP Programmes which is something we expect our Public Representatives both in Ireland and in Europe will be anxious to achieve.”
Beyond the protection of CAP payments, the INHFA leader detailed how the amendment also promotes voluntary engagement over compulsory actions.
The INHFA President stated that over the last year “we have been informed by Members of the European Parliament, Public Representatives here in Ireland and officials working with the EU Commission that the targets set out in this law can be achieved primarily through State lands. In the event of there being a shortfall with regard to the lands needed we have been informed that this shortfall will be made up through voluntary engagement with farmers and landowners who will be financially incentivised to engage and deliver on restoration targets.”
However, Roddy explained how “there is no place in this law that it has clearly specifiedvoluntary engagement, which is a major flaw and of particular concern to us. The amendment we have outlined clearly specifies that engagement with the law is on a voluntary basis in addition to clarifying on the threat to CAP payments.”
In relation to progressing the amendment the INHFA President stressed how “this amendment will have to be tabled and supported by our MEPs and we are in engagement with a number of MEPs on this.”