Heritage Bill Proposals Will Allow for Better Land Management and Address Safety Concerns – IFA

The Heritage Bill proposals to extend the periods during which hedge-cutting and gorse burning are permitted should be supported to allow farmers necessary flexibilities to properly manage hedgerows and uplands, IFA National Hill Chairman Pat Dunne told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht today.

Pat Dunne said, “Farmers understand that hedgerows and upland areas are an important source of biodiversity. That is why we are supporting the introduction of necessary flexibilities to allow them to be properly managed.”

At today’s Committee hearing, Pat Dunne made the point that gorse burning restrictions impact on the amount of available grazing land and the general competitiveness of the agriculture sector, while the excessive closed period for hedge cutting impacts on both farm safety and road safety.

He explained that burning is a vital management tool to ensure that land is not overgrown and as a result abandoned. In addition, in the context of CAP, keeping land eligible for EU payments is vital as sustaining farming is a major challenge in these marginal land areas. He said the dates should be brought in line with those that apply in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Pat Dunne advocated the establishment of co-ordinated land management practices, involving local burning management groups, to ensure that maximum advantage is achieved through a longer burning period.

He said, “The extension of burning dates will assist efforts to address uncontrolled wildfires and uncontrolled vegetation, as well as a means to address the increasing numbers of deer grazing lowland pastures as the woody scrub increases on hillsides”

On hedge-cutting, Padraic Joyce, IFA SAC Project Team Chairman said that allowing farmers to cut hedges in August would be a very sensible decision from a road safety and farm safety perspective.

“August is a busy farming month, with many farmers harvesting crops, spreading soil nutrients and transporting livestock, and therefore needing access to roads. August is also the peak month for tourism in Ireland, with many tourists travelling unfamiliar regional and secondary roads, both walking and in cars. It would be a sensible decision to allow hedges to be cut during August.

In recent years, the unpredictable winter weather has typically resulted in the hedge cutting season being reduced by a third. Agricultural machinery involved in hedgerow trimming is very expensive and many operators work long hours during the open season to ensure the work is completed. August is a month during which 12-14 hours of daylight occurs. Daylight continues to reduce beyond this month. In the interest of both machinery operator safety and motorist safety, hedge cutting should be allowed in August,” Padraic Joyce said.

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