IFA President John Bryan has called for strong financial support from the Government for Hill Areas in the 2014–2020 Rural Development Plan through a meaningful Upland Agri-Environment Scheme and increased support under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.
Speaking at the IFA Hill Forum in Tuam, Co Galway today (Fri), the IFA President said that farm incomes in hill areas are in a very difficult position as a result of cutbacks to environmental schemes, reductions in the Disadvantaged Areas payments and low market returns for hill lamb. He referred to one sheep farmer he met at the Ploughing Championships this week whose income has dropped by up to 60% as a consequence of losing REPS and cuts to the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. This farmer’s situation is reflective of hill farmers in every part of the country.
John Bryan said, “On top of this farmers in Hill areas have been under severe environmental restriction as a result of Commonage Framework Plans which were introduced over 10 years ago. These plans curtailed production and have added to the income crisis.” It would be discriminatory against hill farmers and Minister Coveney must take this into account, as well as not introducing regionalisation in the implementation of the new CAP regime.
He said that farmers in Hill Areas are particularly concerned where eligible areas have been reduced following Department of Agriculture inspections. Hill farmers should not be discriminated against due to the flawed policies of de-stocking which have led to under-grazing in many areas.
Speaking at the Hill Forum, Hill Committee Chairman, Tom Fadian said that the loss of REPS has been a major blow to hill farmers and the Government should immediately engage in discussions in relation to a new Upland Management Scheme which should pay farmers for maintaining and improving the environment in Commonage and Hill areas.
Tom Fadian said this is not acceptable that farmers who finish their REPS 4 contract later this year will have to wait for a new scheme until the next REPS. Minister Coveney must allow these farmers to roll over their REPS contract for a further year until December 2014.
At the forum, speakers from the Department of Agriculture, National Parks & Wildlife Service outlined the issues that are relevant particularly with regard to cross compliance, stocking regime and management plans necessary for these areas. Also IT Sligo and the Wicklow Upland Council presented options for consideration of a new Upland Management Environmental scheme which would go a long way to replacing the loss of REPS in Hill areas.