Hill Farming Reports
Hill Farming Council Report July 2022
Comhairle na Tuaithe
National Outdoor Recreation Strategy (NORS)
- IFA continue to participate in the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy which is currently being developed by Comhairle na Tuaithe in conjunction with the Department of Rural and Community Development. It is anticipated that the Strategy will be launched by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys in late August 2022.
- The second phase of public consultation for the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy closed for submissions on the 17th May 2022.
- Members of the IFA Hill Farming Committee encouraged all farmers and landowners to provide feedback on the strategy and offer suggestions for the proposed plan.
- A total of 677 responses were received through the online survey, with responses from private landowners making up 6% of overall correspondents
- In the strategy, the proposed actions surrounding Access received the greatest level of disagreement amongst landowners. Of the 39 landowners who took part, 46% agreed with the actions while 44% disagreed
- Three key themes emerged from the responses received:
- Improved access for recreational users
- The need for more responsible behaviour from recreational users when accessing private land
- The issue of liability for landowners
IFA Comments on National Outdoor Recreation Strategy
- The role of the landowner should not be diminished when compared to the rights and privileges of those accessing private land for recreational use. Without private landowner’s consent, users would not be able to access these spaces for recreational use and needs to be clear in the document.
- The message NO DOGS ALLOWED under any circumstances on farmland at any time of the year must be clearly communicated. Dog attacks are causing unimaginable suffering for sheep and lambs and huge economic losses for farmers. All dog owners must behave in a responsible way and adhere to this.
- Strengthening the Occupiers Liability Act is needed to address the concerns of landowners will be beneficial as landowners can’t be responsible for recreational users on their land.
- Indemnity insurance pilot scheme launched last year must be extended to all areas where there are trails.
- As part of an extension secured by IFA in Budget 2022, The Walks Scheme was expanded to 80 trails following the addition of 31 new trails in 2021. There are currently 2,400 farmers and landowners involved in the scheme.
- Since June 2022, two new walks, Lung Lough Gara Way, Roscommon and Lung Lough Gara Way, Sligo, are fully on the scheme
- It is expected that a further two walks, South Leinster Way and Brandon Hill Loop, Kilkenny, will join the scheme next month. Workplans for a further 3 more walks are currently with Sport Ireland for auditing.
- IFA insist that the previous commitment set out to extend the Walks Scheme to 80 walks must be delivered without further delay.
- Following calls from IFA, additional funding has been provided to Local Development Companies that deliver schemes locally, as well as for the salaries paid to Rural Recreation Officers. As a result, 8 new Rural Recreation Officer posts have been created to further enhance our outdoor amenities, bringing the total number of RRO’s to 21. At present, 7 new RROs have been appointed and have received training in developing trials and workplans.
- IFA participate in the Walks Scheme Review Consultative Review Committee.
- Following a revision of TAMS Costings revision in July 2021, the hourly rate for own work was raised to €14.85 and IFA successfully ensured that this new rate was applied to all those who take part in the Walks Scheme.
- In the most recent TAMS costings released in April 2022, the hourly rate was increased to €15.30 and IFA have been in contact with Department of Rural and Community Development to have rate increased once again in line with TAMS costings
Outdoor Events Guidelines
- IFA made a submission regarding the proposed Outdoor Event Guidelines being drafted by Comhairle na Tuaithe in consultation with Fáilte Ireland, Coillte, National Parks and Wildlife, OPW, Local County Councils, and Ireland’s Association for Adventure Tourism. The guidelines are planned to be for use of by any individual, community group or event organiser that is involved in the planning and implementation of outdoor activity events across the island of Ireland.
- IFA insist that permission for access needs to be granted by the landowner in all instances where an event is scheduled to take place across private land
- As part of the Designated Area Monitoring Committee, IFA met with Minister of State Malcolm Noonan in April. IFA reiterated the need for meaningful consultation with farmers on the problems of designated land and adequate compensation delivered to farmers whose income and property values are affected by designations.
- As a result of IFA lobbying, additional funding was secured for the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme. The scheme reopened for new applications in February and closed on 31st March 2022
- Currently, there are almost 250 active Farm Plans across the country. 142 new applications were received to participate in the scheme, with 112 of those going forward for plans
- IFA have called on Minister Noonan to increase the payment rates of the scheme to reflect the additional coast of burden on farmers whose land is designated. An enhanced Farm Plan Scheme must be funded through the national exchequer and must cater for all farmers with designations who apply.
- IFA is calling for the introduction of an independent arbitration scheme to determine the loss of value or impact on business caused by designations and a budget to be put in place to cover the costs associated with it.
- A one-stop shop structure must be put in place to deal with these appeals; ensure fair play for farmers; and to minimise delays. Applications would be made to one body, with other relevant agencies feeding into it and there must be a defined period of time in which a farmer must receive a reply
- The Minister expressed his commitment to working together with farmers to address the restrictions faced by those in designated areas.
- IFA Hill Committee continue to lobby the Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcom Noonan to allow the managed burning of gorse is allowed to take place in March. The extension by a month is of vital importance as it will address better vegetative management, help farmers keep land eligible for various CAP schemes and reduce uncontrolled wildfires in later months
- IFA has raised concerns with the Department that farmers whose land was burned in the spring of 2021 and 2022 should not be penalised. This burning was in most cases not caused by farmers and without proof, no farmer should have a penalty imposed on them. IFA has been working successfully with farmers on a number of reviews and appeals over the last few months.
- In June, the Department of Agriculture announced that the new national agri-environment scheme will be known as Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).
- Tranche 1 of the scheme is scheduled to open in quarter 4 2022, with scheme participation commencing in January 2023. Tranche 2 is to open for applications in quarter 4 2023, with scheme participation commencing in January 2024.
- Eight areas are defined as being high priority geographical areas (see map below), and farmers in those areas may engage in the ACRES Co-Operation approach
- Under the co-operation approach, Average payments are expected to be in the region of €7,400 with the potential for a maximum of €10,500.
- Farmers participating in ACRES Co-operation will be supported by one of the following Co-Operation teams;
- Farmers can identify if they are in the general or cooperation approach of ACRES through the following ways:
1. On AgFood – farmers may log directly onto AgFood where, under ‘ACRES Access Agreement’ tab, there will be an information page which will indicate what approach s/he is eligible for ACRES.
2. Through your advisor – a farmer’s advisor, who has signed up to the ACRES Access Agreement, may also view on AgFood which ACRES approach his/her client may apply for.
3. SMS- applicants can send an SMS to 50124 with the following text “DAFM ACRES” followed by their Herd ID. For example, “DAFM ACRES A1234567”
- For more information on ACRES, please see Rural Development Report