Climate Action

Irish Farmers Do a Huge Amount to Support Nature

IFA President Tim Cullinan said Irish farmers are very much for nature, but they are not for the proposed EU Nature Restoration Law including proposals to ‘rewet’ large parts of rural Ireland. 

Ahead of a crucial vote in the Environment Committee of the European Parliament on Thursday, he said some have tried to paint farmers as being ‘anti-nature’ because we oppose this poorly thought out and rushed law. This is disingenuous and divisive.

The IFA President Tim Cullinan called on Irish MEPs to take on board the concerns of farmers ahead of the vote.

“Some campaigners have completely ignored the significant measures implemented by farmers in the last decade and the changes made in the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Some are behaving as if nothing is being done by farmers and that we need this new blunt force law to ‘put manners on them,” he said.

Here are five facts which demonstrate the efforts being made by Irish farm families:

Fact 1: Space for Nature

UCD research confirms that 12-14% of the areas on Irish farms qualifies as ‘Space for Nature’.

Fact 2: Hedgerows

Ireland has almost 700,000 kilometres of hedgerows covering c. 2.6% of its land area, which are protected by law. This landscape is unique to Ireland.

Fact 3: Wild Bird Cover

Irish farmers planted approximately 20,000 hectares of wild bird cover under the Green Low-Carbon Assurance Scheme (GLAS). To put this in context, this made wild bird cover the 4th largest crop grown in Ireland in 2020, 2.5 times larger than the area planted for potatoes.

Over the period of the GLAS programme (2014-2020), according to the Central Statistics Office, the farmland bird index actually increased by almost 19%. There are some species which are under threat and many farmers are involved in projects to address this.

Fact 4: The New CAP

Every farmer must farm in line with the code of Good Agricultural and Environmental Practice in order to receive their EU Basic Payment. In addition, 25% of the farmers payment is ringfenced into an ‘Eco Scheme’ payment which includes allocating and maintaining ‘Space for Nature’. Furthermore, farmers can now include land which is dedicated to nature for EU payments. Under CAP regulations prior to 2023, farmers were actually penalised if this land was included for payment.

Fact 5: Environment Schemes

Over 46,000 farmers have applied to participate in the new Agri-Climate Rural Environmental Scheme (ACRES).  This scheme has an emphasis on many measures that promote biodiversity including grassland and river margins and the planting of additional trees and hedgerows.

The proposed EU Nature Restoration Law needs to be paused with more time for reflection on the issues it has raised.

“It is something of a tumultuous time with the war in Ukraine and the effects of climate change impacting food production. We cannot make laws without understanding the full implications for our society,” he said.

Last week I met our own EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness in Brussels on this issue. I would call on her to intercede now to take the heat out of this issue and pull reasonable farmers and reasonable environmentalists together to find common ground that allows us to move forward and continue to protect nature while also protecting the future of farmers and their families.  

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