IFA SAC Project Team Chairman Padraic Joyce has called on the Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan to ensure farmers with designated Natura land are properly compensated for the restrictions placed on them.
Speaking at an IFA protest at the Department of farmers from designated areas, Padraic Joyce said, “We have been in discussions for the past 18 months. The Minister’s lack of engagement on the matter is not acceptable. IFA sought a meeting with the Minister some months ago, but she has so far not met with IFA. We must have a package of measures in the forthcoming Budget which will see the re-opening of the NPWS farm plan scheme, which has been closed since 2010.”
“While a final agreement with the Department is close, the main issue for Minister Madigan is a meaningful compensation scheme for farmers affected by designations. The Minister must deliver on this crucial issue, as farmers with designated land throughout the country are being denied their rights to maximise the potential of their land, due to the severe farming and developmental restrictions imposed on them. 13.6% of the land is designated as either SAC (Special Areas of Conservation) or SPA (Special Protection Areas), impacting around 35,000 farmers. The farming and development restrictions devalue their property and leads to income loss.”
Padraic Joyce pointed out that there has been some progress made in the talks on conciliation and arbitration to determine losses; the principle of payment for the provision of ecosystem services; a claims process where a farmer is refused consent to carry out activities on their land; and a commitment to conclude the Hen Harrier threat response plan.
Many of these issues have been dragging on for 18 months, since talks commenced on a new agreement on procedures and compensation arrangements for farmers with designated land. However, the Minister seems incapable of getting these crucial issues over the line and farmers have lost confidence in her commitment to delivering a workable deal.
Padraic Joyce said that these discussions will mean very little if the Minister does not deliver a proper compensation scheme as part of the next Budget in two weeks’ time.