Hill Farming Reports
Hill Farming Council Report September 2021
Comhairle na Tuaithe
- A pilot insurance policy for 2 Mountain Access Project areas has been launched by Comhairle na Tuaithe.
- The policy commenced on August 13th and it is initially a two-year pilot.
- The Pilot Insurance policy covers 1) Ben Sleibhe, Co Galway and 2) MacGillycuddy Reeks, Co. Kerry.
- IFA are insisting that the insurance / indemnification be extended to include all walking access areas and that cover for all farmers is in place without further delay. Farmer can’t be expected to carry the risk which is causing stress and anxiety.
- Proposals for new walks – There is programme for government commitment to expand to 80 walks which will be done in conjunction with the review of the walks scheme.
- Audits of new trails were hampered due to COVID-19 but the dept. has developed an online audit and inspection system which will speed up the approval of the new walks.
- IFA have reiterated the point that the expansion of the walks is far too slow and it must be moved on with more urgency and the Programme for government commitment be honoured without delay.
- IFA are insisting that the cuts imposed on land owners in the past are restored.
- IFA are campaigning for the number of trails to be extended to 150, with additional funds of €3.5m to bring it to a total of €7.5m.
- IFA continually raise management of dogs in the countryside with Comhairle na Tuaithe.
- IFA again are insisting that there must be no new designations.
- Payment rates need to reflect the restrictions imposed on farmers due to the designation.
- The NPWS Farm Plan Scheme opened for new applications in March and closed on Friday 9th April 2021.
- 119 plans will go to the next stage and have schemes designed.
- The farm plans may include more than one farmer.
- Farm Plan schemes to be designed to benefit blanket bogs, birds of conservation concern, pollinators, lesser horse shoe bats, rivers, turloughs, invasive species, tillage biodiversity, annexed grasslands and more.
- IFA insist that the scheme should also be reopened to include all farmers who are farming on land which is designated.
- The funding increase committed in Budget 2021 to expand the scheme from 100 to 300 farm plans needs to be further enhanced with increased payment rates to reflect the additional costs and burdens on farmers.
- Increases in funding to €15m must be allocated to the NPWS farm plan scheme to pay farmers where, due to designation of land, restrictions are imposed on farming.
- IFA Hill Committee continue to participate in the Designated Areas Monitoring Committee.
- Farmers who are farming land which is designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protected Areas (SPA) and Natural Heritage Area (NHA), and/or commonages must have priority access to all schemes and must be paid at a higher rate.
- In the context of carbon sequestration, the Hill Committee agreed that a value be put on the extent that blanket bogs contribute to the environment and public good.
- IFA got a commitment from DAFM that if a farmer has evidence or a sworn affidavit that they did not burn the land themselves, penalties would be waived.
- DAFM claim the scarred area is still ineligible for payment.
- IFA insists that farmers whose land was burned but not by themselves in the spring on or after March 1st should not be penalised either with a penalty or have the area classified as ineligible due to the burning when it is clearly eligible again before the BPS application date.
- There are a number of reviews and appeals in progress and this will be monitored closely over the coming months.
EU LIFE PROJECTS
Wild Atlantic Life IP
- The Project is focused primarily on the blanket bog SACs and associated lands from Galway Bay up to north Donegal and the objective is to achieve good habitat quality in the north-western SACs.
- The project is being piloted in the Owenduff/Nephin SAC area in Mayo for 2021 and 2022 with payments for both years.
- IFA Hill Committee met the project Manager and eligible farmers in advance of request for Expressions of Interest.
- The Wild Atlantic Nature Life IP or any other scheme must not lead to increased restrictions on farms and IFA welcomes clarification that participating farmers will be allowed to “stock their land to its potential”.
- IFA insisted that all farmers who submit an expression of interest to participate in the project must be included.
Wild Atlantic Life IP – Proposed Site Locations
LIFE On Machair
- LIFE On Machair Public covers an area of coastlands from Galway Bay to Malin Head.
- Machair is a semi-natural coastal grassland that is only found on the west coasts of Ireland.
- There is a potential of a €7m project entitled LIFE On Machair, targeting the improvement in the conservation status and ecosystem functioning of machair habitats.
- If successful in achieving funding, the project aims to support traditional farming on Machair.
- The project will be a voluntary Results Based Payment approach to habitat management, awarding payments to landowners, thereby putting the landowner, their skills, expertise and knowledge of their land central to the development of this project.