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IFA Offaly County Chairman, Joe Parlon, has called on the Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan to extend the compensation on offer for farmers restricted from turf cutting in SAC bogs from the current 15 years to the lifetime of the bog.

Mr. Parlon was speaking following a meeting of turf-cutters from the midlands counties said that it is not acceptable that there is a cut off point for the compensation as the requirement of turf goes a long way beyond the 15 year period. Furthermore, it is vital that the compensation level is increased from €1,000 to €2,000.

The Offaly Chairman said that a number of options must be put to turf-cutters to include relocation, where appropriate, compensation for an extended period, and the purchase of turf for the lifetime of the bog.

Mr. Parlon also called for an early assessment of 75 NHA bogs, many of them in the midlands, which the Minister intends to close for turf-cutting in 2014. Many of these bogs must be taken out of designation as they are designated under national legislation where the Minister has more say compared to the EU Habitats Directive.

IFA has called for more options for farmers who are being forced to cease turf cutting on designated SAC raised bogs.

Speaking following a meeting with the Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, IFA SAC Project Chairman Padraig Divilly said that every effort must be made to ensure that those who have been denied their turf cutting rights, are given various options to deal with their situation.

Mr. Divilly told Minister Deenihan that the compensation package of €1,000 must be increased to €2,000 for the lifetime of the bog, and not 15 years, as currently proposed. Also, relocation should be put in place in certain instances. However it is likely to be limited as farmers will have to travel long distances in some cases.

The IFA welcomed the option of a turf purchase scheme but this must also be seen as a long term measure and not for a 3 or 4 period as mentioned by the Minister last week.

IFA has secured a commitment that the closing date for the bog compensation package will be extended and applications will still be accepted after October 31st, 2011.

IFA SAC Project Chairman Padraig Divilly has welcomed the move by Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan to allow farmers and landowners restricted from turfcutting to be supplied with turf.

Mr Divilly said IFA had sought this provision as one of the options that was necessary to deal with the restrictions imposed on 32 raised bogs in 2011.

The IFA Chairman said, “Along with this move, the Minister must also provide more options where restrictions have been imposed. These should include relocation to neighbouring bogs, an increase of the compensation deal from €1,000 to €2,000, and that the period of time for the compensation to apply should be extended from 15 years to the lifetime of the bog.”

IFA Rural Development Chairman, Tom Turley, has said that farmers in Shannon Callows will be allowed to cut their meadows from 23rd July next under derogation rather than the delayed date of August/September for 2011.

Mr. Turley said that following discussions, it has been confirmed by the National Parks + Wildlife Service, the derogation will apply to 600 farmers in REPS, AEOS and the NPWS National Farm Plan Scheme whose areas are designated in the Shannon Callows and other areas.

The IFA man welcomed the derogation as it’s clear that the staggered cuttings from early August to mid-September was not working for farming or the environment. With the late cutting dates, the quality of fodder was very poor and farmers were either unable to conserve hay/silage or if conserved, it was of very poor quality. The derogation will now allow farmers an opportunity to conserve a better quality of fodder for 2011.

Mr. Turley said that consideration must be given so that this derogation becomes permanent in the years ahead.

IFA Connacht Vice President + SAC Project Chairman Padraic Divilly has criticised the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan for his failure to implement the turf cutting package for farmers and landowners.

Mr. Divilly was speaking following a meeting of the Peatlands Council in Athlone where it was pointed out that other than the Clara bog in Co. Offaly, relocation has not been offered so far to any bog user affected. Turf-cutters are being left in a very uncertain situation as cutting has ceased with no alternative sites being offered.

The IFA man called on Minister Deenihan to implement the only feasible option for this year which must involve the supply of solid fuel for the coming winter for those who have been stopped from cutting and the failure to have an alternative package in place.

Mr. Divilly said that the level of interest, so far, in the €1,000 compensation scheme is very low and it is important that the level of compensation is doubled to €2,000 for the lifetime of the bog rather than for a 15 year period.

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