Officers from The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) were stunned by proposals in the new Results-based Environmental-Agri pilot Project (REAP) to exclude commonages and land containing heather from the scheme.
Speaking after the Departments presentation to the farm organisations INHFA President Colm O’Donnell outlined his dismay on the exclusion of these lands, which are he stated “predominately peat based and prime habitats for a wide range of fauna such as the endangered red grouse which is an annex 1 red listed bird.
It is, he continued “shocking that an agri-environmental program supported by the Irish State and the European Union, ignores the most valuable lands in the country with a high percentage of these lands forming part of the Natura 2000 network.”
In making the call to exclude these lands,it does he added, “increase our suspicion that the habitats and biodiversity is of secondary importance to the carbon asset that many believe and hope these lands can deliver. Similar to what is happening in the CAP negotiations under GAEC 2 where prescribed actions could make peat soils ineligible, this pilot has also identified large areas of peat soils for exclusion.”
As this is a pilot it will be instrumental in forming the basis for the next agri-environmental scheme in the new CAP.
On this the INHFA President questioned “if commonage and hill land where heather dominates will even get access to any such scheme.” He also questioned “if Minister McConalogue is fully aware of the impact this will have especially in his own County.”
In relation to the proposed budget of €10m O’Donnell stated “how all farmers will be disappointed with the level of support which is well short of the €1.5bn in the States carbon fund that was initially suggested or the more modest €79m outlined in last Autumn’s budget.”
In concluding the INHFA leader took the opportunity to address suggestions made by some that the organisation is scare-mongering when it comes to proposals around peat soils. On this he quoted a well-worn phrase – “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck” before adding that, when we look at these and other proposals on agriculture and across climate change policy it isn’t hard to join the dots and see the land and our farm families who farm those lands extensively are right now the firing line.”