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IFA SAC Project Chairman Tom Turley said that Natura areas must be a priority in the new GLAS scheme as farmers must be fully compensated for farming restrictions imposed.

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IFA President Eddie Downey has called on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys to take action on the impact that land designations are having on farmers as a result of unnecessary restrictions being imposed.

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IFA has said that the decision of the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan to allow turf-cutting to continue on 45 NHA raised bogs in 2014 is a step in the right direction and must be followed by the continued implementation of a comprehensive package for farmers who may be restricted in other areas.

IFA SAC Project Chairman Tom Turley said the approach now being taken by Minister Deenihan is one that has been pursued by IFA for some time as the problems on the SAC raised bogs which have emerged over the last number of years could have been avoided if such a strategy had been put in place at that time.

Tom Turley said that turf-cutting should be allowed to continue in these 45 NHA areas into the future without any further planning stipulations. “The remaining 36 NHA bogs should be allowed to continue to cut. Turf-cutters who wish to avail of the compensation package and other measures should be allowed to do so if they consider this the best option for them.”

He said the reduction in the number of turf-cutters affected, from over 3,000 to around 500, is important as it significantly minimises the effect of designations. It is also important that the compensation package is available to this group of turf-cutters if they wish to avail of it.

IFA Hill Committee Chairman Tom Fadian has called for flexibility in the review of the Commonage Framework Plans which will set down specific stocking levels on 7,000 commonages throughout the country, and which is expected to be in place from 2013.

Following a high level meeting between IFA and both the National Parks + Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture in Galway, Mr. Fadian said that farmers who will be allowed to increase stock numbers must be given sufficient time to meet the minimum stocking level which must be set at a practical level. Also, the maximum stocking level must be sufficiently high to allow those farmers, who have the capacity to attain these levels to increase sheep numbers.

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IFA SAC Project Team Chairman Padraic Divilly has described the proposed Turf Cutting Forum, which has been proposed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage + Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan as coming too late unless it is matched by a comprehensive package acceptable to farmers and turf cutters.

Minister Deenihan’s proposal is belatedly recognising that relocation is a viable option for turf cutters. This proposal has been with Minister Deenihan since he took office and he should have acted sooner.

“Relocation should have been put in place many months ago and not at the eleventh hour when farmers and turf cutters are being forced off 55 SAC raised bogs,” he said.

Mr Divilly said that IFA has presented proposals some time ago for a comprehensive package to deal with this situation

This would involve the reimbursement on offer being doubled from €1,000 to €2,000 and applying it for the lifetime of the bog with a minimum of 30 years and must not be restricted to the current 15 years deadline. Farmers who have not have not had deals concluded under the 2004 buyout arrangement should be allowed transfer to a new scheme.

Padraic Divilly said that before any deal is offered, every option must be given to turf-cutters. This would involve relocation for those who want to cut turf. “The supply of turf should also be provided for those that see it as the preferred option, where relocation is not suitable.”

In the case of relocation, Mr Divilly said a disturbance payment must be offered as, in a lot of cases, the relocated bog is a long way from the restricted bog. Also, a 100% grant should be available to those who want to install an alternative heating system and/or insulation where necessary.

“Where farmers have established cutting rights administrative problems must be overcome in a flexible manner. All users must be accommodated in a package of measures which protect the rights of all bog owners and people who use bogs to provide fuel for their homes, “ he concluded.

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