IFA President Eddie Downey has called on Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys to agree compensation measures that fully recognise the loss of earning and fall in land value incurred by farmers with designated lands. At a meeting this week, the President said that consultation and a proper appeals process must also be introduced to ensure fairness for farmers affected by designations.
The IFA President said the EU Habitats and Birds Directives have been in place in Ireland for nearly 20 years and have affected farm incomes and led to significant devaluation of property, impacting on development.
One of the major issues that has arisen is the abolition in 2010 of the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme, which had provided specific compensation for various habitat areas, separate to agri-environment schemes.
IFA SAC Project Team Chairman Tom Turley called on the Minster to reinstate this approach and to put in place a specific scheme for various habitat areas, separate to the GLAS Scheme. “It is only fair that farmers be compensated for restrictions placed on their lands and provided with a level of compensation that truly reflects the income loss and deals with the devaluation of property”.
Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan
Forestry in Hen Harrier areas has been sterilised since 2011, pending the development of a Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan. This situation is untenable as it is depriving farmers of the opportunity to use their land to the best potential, and has seriously devalued the property.
Tom Turley told Minister Humphreys that progress on the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan has been unacceptably slow and engagement from the NPWS on an outcome has been minimal. An outcome that would allow appropriate developments to take place must be forthcoming at an early date and in particular the ban on afforestation must be removed and replaced with an assessment process.
Fencing in hill and other designated areas
Flor McCarthy, IFA Rural Development Chairman said farmers carrying out fencing in designated mountain areas are being forced to seek planning permission and approval from the NPWS, leading to significant costs for hill farmers already on low incomes. IFA is proposing the NPWS should be able to sign off on fencing applications or should pay all costs associated with seeking planning permission.
Hedge cutting and gorse burning
At this week’s meeting, Minister Humphreys gave a commitment that the review of Hedge Cutting and Gorse Burning would be published in the next fortnight. IFA is hoping for a positive outcome on its call for a change to the burning date to the middle of April and a narrowing of the hedge cutting prohibition period from April 1st to August 31st.