The Irish Natura & HIll Farmers Association has elected Colm O’Donnell from South Sligo as their first National President at their AGM held last Tuesday.The organisation also elected Michéal McDonnell as National Secretary, Brendan O’Malley as Treasurer and Siobhan Ward as Public Relations Officer. At the meeting they also adopted a new constitution which saw the role of National Chair being changed to National President.
Speaking after the meeting O’Donnell expressed delight on being appointed and stressed the need for an organisation to represent farmers with hill and designated land as “more critical than ever, especially as we head into new CAP negotiations while also dealing with the challenges of Brexit.”
For many of our members he continued “the need for a CAP deal post 2020 that recognises the constraints they experience due to habitat conservation is a major priority.”With farmers on designated lands required to seek permission for 39 different actions that other farmers need not worry about, they have stated O’Donnell “extra costs and a reduced earning potential that will have to be compensated.”
Other priorities O’Donnell outlined include ensuring the Farmers Charter of Rights becomes part of the Terms & Conditions for all Schemes which would ensure farmers receive their payments when due, unlike what has happened with GLAS.
The establishment of an Independent Appeals Board with a full review and reinstatement of payments for all farmers who lost out under any Department inspection that did not have a control report.
Clarity on the inspection process, especially for farmers on hill and commonage lands which he stated “should include the full implementation of the established local practices.”
On the Sheep Welfare Scheme he is insistent that the €25m be spent there and is proposing that any under-spend which could exceed €5m be targeted as a top-up on the Hill ewe.
He concluded by highlighting the inequities in payment rates of the ANC Scheme which he stated “does not reflect the land constraint and will need to be addressed in next years review.” In the meantime he added “the €25m increase in this coming year’s scheme should be targeted at hill type land.”