IFA President Eddie Downey has called on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys to take action on the impact that land designations are having on farmers as a result of unnecessary restrictions being imposed.
At a meeting this week, Eddie Downey pointed out to the Minister that farmers who plan to afforest their land or develop their land for farming purposes are being restricted and are not being properly compensated. Examples of this include the hen harrier areas where land is being sterilised and an action plan which was promised some time ago has not been put in place.
The IFA President reminded the Minister of agreements that had been reached with landowners when designations were imposed that where restrictions were imposed compensation would be paid. IFA is still insisting that where restrictions apply, compensation has got to be paid and that the Minister must step up to the mark on this issue.
At the same meeting, IFA SAC Project Chairman Tom Turley pointed out to the Minister that there is an opportunity for the Minister through the NPWS farm plant scheme to pay farmers for restrictions relating to the specific restrictions that are imposed. This must be done through either top-ups to the GLAS scheme where that scheme doesn’t adequately compensate farmers or alternatively that a farmer is allowed to apply for payments fully from the NPWS.
Michael Fleming, IFA Farm Forestry Chairman pointed out that the delays in developing the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan are unacceptable. Farmers can no longer accept the no-planting policy in Hen Harrier SPAs while the NPWS drag their feet developing the Threat Response Plan.
“It is almost two years since the Forest Management Protocol for Forestry in Hen Harrier SPAs was suspended by the NPWS”, said Mr. Fleming. “The lack of progress is very frustrating for farmers, whose land has already been significantly devalued by the designation and who are now being denied an opportunity to earn an income.
In relation to the review of burning/hedgecutting, Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy said that it was important that the dates were changed in line with those in other jurisdictions which allow for a longer period in which hedgecutting and burning can take place.