New IFA SAC Project Team Meets to Set Out Priorities

The IFA SAC Project Team has met to agree the priority areas they will focus on for the 35,000 farmers impacted by designations in Ireland.

The project team consists of representatives from Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs), with new members appointed by the IFA National Officer Committee.

IFA SAC Project Team Chairman Pat Murphy said “13.6% of the land in Ireland is designated as either SAC, SPA or NHA. While we acknowledge the role that designation plays in the protection of biodiversity and habitat loss, it is those who manage and upkeep these areas, the farmers and landowners, who ultimately pay the price”.

On the priorities for the SAC Project Team, he said, “The project team will seek an appropriate compensation scheme is put in place to ensure farmers impacted by designation are properly compensated for the farming restrictions placed on them and to account for loss of earnings and the devaluation of land”.

Other key focus areas in the coming months include the implementation of the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) Farm Plan Scheme, with members intending to engage with NPWS representatives in the coming weeks. The NPWS Farm Plan Scheme supports landowners to deliver environmentally beneficial actions on designated land.

The Chairman said “It is expected that 360 Farm Plans will be up and running by the end of the year. However, greater funding is needed to expand the number in the scheme, with increased payment rates to reflect the additional costs and burden on farmers whose land is designated. IFA insist that an enhanced Farm Plan Scheme must be funded through the National Exchequer and all farmers with designations who apply for the scheme must be catered for”.

IFA will continue to participate on the Designated Area Monitoring Committee.  Farmers should not have to suffer income loss imposed by designations without proper compensation.