Hill Farming Reports

Hill Farming Council Report July 2023

  1. Scheme Updates 


  • Approx. 18,600 applications were received and accepted to take part in the Co-operation approach ACRES. DAFM estimate that 500,000ha of privately owned upland will be covered across the Co-Operation areas, with approx. 268,000ha of Commonage to be included.  
  • Scoring has commenced for results-based measures and is due to be completed by 31st August. Approximately 170,000 scorecards have been issued, with circa 17,500 completed (as of 5th July) 
  • At a recent meeting with DAFM officials, IFA strongly rejected the suggestion of penalties being imposed on farmers as a result of planners not submitting their ACRES scorecards on time. IFA highlighted the impact of recent dry weather on certain highly sensitive land areas, including machair lands where vegetation had been completely burnt off, and had delayed scoring. IFA highlighted the need for flexibility around scoring for certain land types due to unpredictable weather conditions.   
  • Turf cut under turbary rights on commonage will now be scored separately under ACRES. Areas with turbary activity have been mapped out by CP teams for scoring. Payment for scoring will be based on a weighted average. 
  • DAFM confirmed that applications for Non-Productive Investments will open for CP applicants in Q4. The current list of NPI’s is being finalised but will include measures similar to general actions. There will be approx. 50 actions to be selected from.  
  • NPI payment process: Applications open in Sept > CP teams screen to ensure no potential damage > notification & approval > actioned > payment the following year. System similar overall to TAMS. Process is being built currently. Note: payment is separate to core payment. 
  • Landscape Actions will be open in early 2024 for CP Teams to create annual work plans for farmers who wish to participate.  

Walks Scheme 

  • Following IFA lobbying, an expansion of the Walks Scheme from 80 to 150 trails in the next 2 years was announced by Minister for Rural & Community Development, Heather Humphreys. 
  • Funding of €2.4m has been allocated to the expansion of the scheme and will bring the number of farmers/landowners on the Walks Scheme to 2,500. 
  • Approx. 70 of the 80 Walks are up and running, with workplans being developed for the remaining 10.  
  • An extension to the deadline of expression of interest for the scheme was granted until Friday 20th October 2023. 
  • Following calls from IFA, the hourly rate for farmer/landowners on the Walks Scheme has been increased to €15.52 in line with the updated TAMS costings for 2023.  

       NPWS Farm Plan Scheme  

  • Following IFA lobbying, additional funding was secured for the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme. The scheme reopened for new applications in June and will close on 4th August 2023. 
  • Currently, there are almost 350 active Farm Plans across the country.   
  • 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. 
  1. Activity since last National Council 
  • The latest meeting of the IFA National Hill Farming Committee took place on 30th May. 
  • IFA made a submission on themes for future European Innovation Projects (EIP’s) covered under CAP 2023-2027. 
  • IFA has had ongoing communication with the two Mountain Access Projects in Binn Sleibhe and the MacGillycuddy Reeks after problems were identified.  
  • Issues were raised by landowners who were not fully aware of the pilot project in the areas to protect landowners against claims from recreational users. 
  • DRCD agreed to provide funding for an engagement officer to work with the local stakeholders. In addition, the Department has asked the Irish Farmers’ Association and the Galway Rural Recreation Officer to assist at a local level. DRCD agreed to draft an information note on the public liability insurance policy to explain this to the landowners in the MAP areas.  
  • IFA attended the most recent meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe which took place in Ballycroy, Co.Mayo on 18th May.  
  • IFA have participated in a number of subgroups regarding the ongoing implementation of the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy, such as the Implementation & Oversight Group, as well as the Membership & Working Arrangements subgroup 
  • IFA attended the most recent meeting of the Responsible Behaviour in the Outdoors subgroup. Key Issues / Challenges raised include lack of respect for landowners/users/nature, no dogs permitted on active farmed land (incl. uplands) & no fires permitted on active farmed land (incl. uplands) 
  • IFA made comments regarding the proposed Outdoor Event Guidelines being drafted by Comhairle na Tuaithe.  
  • 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; Include stronger message surrounding dog control; Greater emphasis needed on the personal responsibility of the user.  
  • IFA attended a PREPSOIL workshop in Tullamore, followed by a site visit to the EIP FARMPEAT Project.  
  • IFA met with representatives from Bord na Mona to discuss ongoing peatland habitat restoration measures on lands within Brown Bog Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Co. Longford. 
  • Ongoing communication with the Walks Scheme Review Consultative Group. 
  1. Upcoming issues 
  • IFA will meet with the NPWS to discuss a review of the Wildlife Acts, the EU Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations and related Statutory Instruments. 
  • Meeting of Mountain Access Project Advisory Group on 1st August. 
  • Meeting of Walks Scheme Advisory Group. 
  • Comhairle na Tuaithe Subgroup meeting in relation to Membership & Management issues on 3rd August. 
  • Ongoing communication with DAFM re issues relating to CP areas within ACRES scheme. 

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