Hill Farming Reports
Hill Farming Council Report October 2022
Comhairle na Tuaithe
National Outdoor Recreation Strategy (NORS)
- IFA continues 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.
- 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
- The proposed actions in the draft strategy 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
- Key themes emerging from responses include the need for more responsible behaviour from recreational users when accessing private land and the issue of liability for landowners
- The Strategy is currently being finalised, and is expected to be launched by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys shortly following cabinet approval.
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
- Strengthening of the Occupiers Liability Act is needed to address the concerns of landowners and 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. For 2023, the Department has a budget of approximately €5m to support up to 80 walks (as has already been approved) on the Walks Scheme. This includes funding for Rural Recreation Officers in relevant areas and payments to participants (i.e. landowners).
- There are currently 52 trails on the Walks Scheme, with 4 trails coming on in the next few months and 24 more approved, with workplans currently being developed.
- 6 walks are fully on the Scheme since 1st October (Lung Lough Gara Way Roscommon and Lung Lough Gara Way Sligo, Brandon Hill and South Leinster in Kilkenny, Darragh Hill and Paradise Hill in Limerick)
- 2 walks are on track to join the scheme in November (Aughris Head Sligo and Anne Valley Way Waterford), with a further 2 walks set to join the scheme on January 1st 2023 (Attychrann Loop and Glounreagh Loop, Limerick)
- Workplans for 4 more walks are currently with Sport Ireland for auditing.
- 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 from Sport Ireland in developing trials and workplans. The eighth RRO, for IRD Duhallow, takes up their position on October 17th.
- IFA insist that the previous commitment set out to extend the Walks Scheme to 80 walks must be delivered without further delay.
- IFA Hill Committee have called on the Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcom Noonan to ensure 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 2020, 2021 & 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 have successfully worked with farmers on a number of appeals over the last few months.
- 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.
- Following 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. With an additional budget of €1.6m, 142 new applications were received under the 2022 call. 111 of those have gone forward for plans to be developed. At present, 77 plans have been developed and received, with 63 of those approved. Development and approval of plans is ongoing, with 360 Farm Plans expected to be up and running by the end of the year.
- IFA continue to call on Minister Noonan to
- Increase the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme budget to €15m. An enhanced Farm Plan Scheme must be funded through the national exchequer and must cater for all farmers with designations who apply.
- Increase the payment rates of the scheme to reflect the additional coast of burden on farmers whose land is designated.
- Tranche 1 of the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) opened for advisors to submit applications on behalf of farmers this month. Contracts for successful applicants will be 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 and farmers in those areas may engage in the ACRES Co-Operation approach. Farmers participating in ACRES Co-operation will be supported by one of the following Co-Operation teams (See below)
- 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.
- Following engagement between IFA and DAFM, flexibility was achieved on €7,000 ringfenced for results-based action on CP land. Where an ACRES CP participant’s core payment is less than €7000 per annum, the shortfall between what was paid in core payments and the €7,000 limit will be available to the participant for additional NPIs and LAs as long as the overall scheme limit of €52,500 is not exceeded.
- This change gives farmers in CP areas every opportunity to reach the €10,500 payment limit.