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Following today’s (19th June) publication of the ASSAP Interim Report, IFA’s National Environment Chairman Paul O’Brien said that the collaborative efforts to engage with farmers and the wider community to improve the quality of water bodies is encouraging.

He said, “Farmers want to do the right thing, and the fact that farmer engagement with the programme has reached 96% is evidence of this”.

The report shows a net improvement of 16.7% in water quality in water bodies that were prioritised areas for action.

“It demonstrates that farmers are committed to building on environmental actions, and this needs to be fairly reflected in any future eco-schemes.”

The Environment Chairman said, “A key element of the ASSAP programme is that once an issue is identified, the team provides practical solutions to remedy the problem”.

He said, “I am optimistic about the future of the programme. The collaborative support and input from multiple actors in the sector are key and gives reassurance to farmers”.

IFA National Rural Development Chairman, Michael Biggins has called for the early approval of all TAMS applicants for the latest application period (Tranche 17) which closed on June 5th. Over 5,000 applications were submitted for this tranche.

It is now up to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed to issue approval to all of these applicants. Farmers who do not have full planning permission must have it secured by July 10th, when the selective process will proceed.

The IFA Rural Development Chairman pointed out that the next application period (Tranche 18) opened on June 6th and will close on 7th August. This is a shorter timeframe than usual (tranches normally open for 3 months).

The Department told IFA that, as yet, no decision has been taken on the number of tranches that will be available between August and December 31st 2020, when the current phase of the scheme comes to an end.

At the meeting, IFA put forward a case for the continuation of the scheme under EU CAP transitional arrangements for a further year or two, until the details of the next Rural Development Programme are available.

€82.5m is available for the scheme this year with over €30m already paid out.

It was stressed by IFA that there must be no delay in grant payments. The extra cost of bridging loans is a serious financial burden at a time when farm incomes are under pressure.

IFA received assurances that pre-payment inspections which involve 5% of applications will not delay payments.

 

IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe has welcomed today’s funding announcement by the Department of Agriculture for a number of agri-food tourism projects.

It follows IFA’s call for people holidaying at home this summer (while adhering to the Government’s Covid-19 roadmap) to consider a stay on one of the many farm guesthouses around the country.

Ireland’s tourism sector will begin to re-open next month and many people are beginning to consider staycations around the country.

Brian Rushe said, “Grants such as these contribute to the development of a vibrant agri-tourism sector. Rural Ireland has been hard hit as a result of Covid-19, so these monies are badly needed. I urge Minister Creed to ensure they are paid out without any delay.”

IFA President Tim Cullinan said there seems to be an obsession amongst some about reducing the national cow herd.

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IFA has welcomed the decision by Environment Minister Richard Bruton T.D. to ring-fence funds to tackle increased illegal dumping during the current COVID-19 crisis.

However, the Association has called on the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities (WERLAs) to develop a results-based plan setting out clearly how this €1m will be spent, what prosecutions they expect to achieve, and how many additional fixed notice penalties they expect local authorities to issue.

Paul O’Brien, IFA Environment & Rural Affairs Chairman said, “Funding to tackle the growing issue of dumping in the countryside is important. But farm families and rural communities are rightly asking, what’s this €1m being used for and how will it lead to catching the serial dumpers who are a blight on the countryside? It’s time Government got tough on these litter louts and asked hard questions of local authorities and the WERLAs who have enforcement and prosecution powers when it comes to tackling illegal dumping”.

IFA has restated its call, made in a submission to the Department of Environment earlier this year, for urgent action to tackle the issue of reckless littering in rural areas, by introducing the following five key actions:

Details of those who receive on-the spot fines on more than two occasions must be published on local authority websites.

  1. The regional waste enforcement authorities must ensure that all local authorities have a litter prevention plan in place, which is being implemented.
  2. All local authorities must publish a list of convicted serial dumpers and seek tougher sentences.
  3. All retailers, including on-line retailers who put waste packing on the market must be required to fund a recycling programme for the correct management of these materials.
  4. Current waste management laws must be changed to ensure that reckless dumpers are pursued by local authorities and enforcement agencies, not the farmers on whose land is dumped upon.

 


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