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IFA SAC Project Chairman, Padraic Divilly, has called on the Minister for the Arts, Heritage + Gaeltacht Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan, to confirm that turf cutting can take place this year, on 31 raised SAC bogs, as was indicated in the course of the recent General Election.

Speaking following a meeting of the SAC Monitoring Committee in Dublin, Padraic Divilly raised the issue of turf cutting on 31 SAC raised bogs where a derogation to allow turf cutting was given last year. The NPWS told IFA that it is their intention not to allow turf cutting on these bogs which are mainly located in the West/Midlands area. It is now up to Minister Deenihan to clarify the situation and allow turf cutting on these bogs as was promised during the recent election.

Mr. Divilly said the NPWS approach is in contrast to statements that were made by politicians from the new Government that turf cutting for domestic purposes would be allowed in 2011. Also the new programme for Government which has a special section on turf cutting is ambiguous and needs clarity for the 54 SAC raised bogs, 31 of which may be affected this year.

The IFA Chairman said it is up Minister Deenihan to come out and clarify the situation as turf cutters prepare to start cutting turf. Turf cutters must be allowed to exercise their right to cut turf for domestic purposes this year and beyond.

IFA SAC Project Chairman and Connacht Vice President Padraic Divilly has called for a wide ranging package for turf cutters this year on 31 SAC raised bogs.  The rights of bog owners must be protected and a new Government must address this serious issue.

Mr. Divilly has set out a number of options which must be taken on board by a new Government.  These include;
– Farmers and landowners must be allowed to continue to cut turf on SAC bogs for domestic purposes,
– Relocation, where agreeable,  to other bogs in the locality with compensation,
– A 100% grant for the installation of alternative domestic heating systems and on going annual payments for heating,
– And the purchase of bogs by the NPWS at a realistic price where landowners wish to sell.

Mr. Divilly said the €1,000 package which was available to some landowners who did not cut in 2010, must be doubled for 2011 and extended for a period of the turf cutting potential of the bog with a minimum of 30 years.

The IFA SAC Project Chairman also said that contractors who lose business as a result of unavailability of bogs to cut in the future must also be eligible for the compensation package.
Concluding, Mr. Divilly said that in the upcoming General Election, IFA will be making a major issue of the proposed NPWS turf cutting restrictions in the areas affected and he called on farmers to raise their serious concerns that the restrictions will have with the candidates in the election campaign.

Niall Madigan  (01) 450 1931/ 086 822 8635
Morag Devins  (01) 426 0344/ 086 263 3940

Addressing the AGM of the Irish Farmers Association in Dublin today (Tues), IFA President John Bryan set out the key challenges facing the sector in the year ahead. “As we start 2011, we are only weeks away from a Spring General Election. Protection of vital farm schemes and retention of essential farm taxation reliefs to facilitate growth will be key elements of IFA’s election manifesto.”

Mr Bryan said since taking over as IFA President, he has relentlessly promoted the importance of the sector to the economy in supporting exports and jobs. However, he warned that the future of the agri-food sector and the future of our economy cannot be jeopardised by the irrational ideology of the Greens in relation to the Climate Change issue, in the dying days of this Government.

He said, “Food Harvest 2020 sets out ambitious but achievable targets for the agriculture sector over the next decade. Ireland has the potential to increase farmgate output by €1.5 billion, with an increase in exports to €12 billion. The growth achieved in 2010 alone shows that these targets can be reached.”

John Bryan said, “the Climate Change Bill threatens to block progress and prevent Irish farming from realising our potential to help meet the rising global demand for food. And we can do it with one of the most sustainable models of food production in the world. I am calling on all Senators and TDs to put jobs, exports and economic recovery first, and to reject this Bill, until the legitimate concerns of our agri-food sector are dealt with.”

He said, “There are real threats to Irish agriculture in the ongoing CAP negotiations, with strong demands for the redistribution of funds to Eastern Europe, and for the ‘greening’ of the CAP, whereby resources would be redirected from food production towards environmental supports.”

Mr Bryan put down a clear marker to the Government and to our MEPs:  hold the line, and retain the existing payment model and 100% of the Single Farm Payment for our active farmers.

On Mercosur, John Bryan said Ireland’s €2bn livestock and beef sector is particularly vulnerable, because Brazilian beef imports will destroy price returns from EU markets. But there are also grave implications for our dairy, pigmeat, poultry and cereals sectors.

He said “I am putting all political parties on notice today: this will be a key issue to be addressed in 2011. We want a strong commitment from the next Government to take a tough stance in Europe in defence of our interests. We must insist on an end to EU double standards on South American imports, when it comes to food safety and traceability, animal health and environmental standards.”
Concluding, John Bryan said, “IFA will also be focused on maximising producer prices across all commodities; negotiating a new Charter of Farmers’ Rights; and from the new Government, securing full recognition and support for the vital role of agriculture in our economy.”

IFA SAC Project Chairman and Connacht Vice President Padraic Divilly said the severe implications that environmental designations have on farmers and landowners will be a major issue in the forthcoming General Election.

Speaking following a meeting in Dublin attended by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Padraic Divilly said that it is unacceptable that the livelihoods of up to 20,000 farmers and landowners are being affected without having proper recourse to fair procedures for appeals and compensation.

Currently 13% of all land in the Country are designated Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protected Area or Natural Heritage Areas. The main areas affected are in the west of Ireland, midland bogs, river and coastal areas.

The IFA man said that the Minister for the Environment John Gormley still plans to proceed with turf cutting restrictions on 32 raised bogs next year. This will have to be resisted until such a time as compromises are arrived at which include options for allowing turf cutting for domestic purposes, relocation and compensation. The 6,000 turf cutters will be affected by Minister Gormley’s plans and they must be resisted.

Continuing Padraic Divilly criticised the Designated Appeals Body, which now only favours the environmental lobby. The landowner representatives are being totally undermined as the appeals process is weighted firmly in favour of the environmental groups aided and abetted by the NPWS.

Concluding, Mr. Divilly said the next Government has to seriously look at the designation process, which is now seen as a mechanism to stop any development including wind farms, energy crops and forestry.

IFA Hill Committee Chairman Tom Fadian has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, to remove the requirement for planning for sheep fencing on private designated land under the recently introduced Sheep Handling + Fencing grant scheme.

Mr Fadian said it is unreasonable to request planning permission for fencing in SACs, SPAs and NHAs as these areas are already protected under prescribed actions.

“Seeking planning permission will add cost and eat into the new grant scheme where farmers can draw a maximum of €4,000. Furthermore it will delay projects and will add to further bureaucracy on hill- farms,” he said.

Mr Fadian said the requirement of planning for sheep fencing in designated areas is unreasonable and should be removed by Minister Smith.

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