IFA President Says Hill Farmers Are Being Shortchanged on Environmental Scheme
10-point plan for Hill Farmers launched at National Hill Forum
IFA President Joe Healy has said that the current environmental scheme available to farmers in Hill areas is inadequate and needs to be improved in the upcoming CAP negotiations.
Speaking at the annual IFA Hill Sheep Forum in Westport today, the IFA President said that GLAS does not reward farmers satisfactorily. It does not reflect the work hill farmers carry out in maintaining the landscape, nor does it recognise the unique benefits that hill and commonage farmers deliver in meeting the challenges of climate change, and the protection of the habitats that require good management practices.
Addressing farmers from around the country, Joe Healy launched a 10-point plan which includes greater ambition on environmental schemes, with farmers getting up to €10,000 annually for management practices. Higher payments should apply where farmers are asked to protect designated SAC and SPA land.
At the Hill Forum where Minister Michael Ring performed the official opening, IFA Hill Chairman Flor McCarthy impressed upon the Minister the need for supports for farmers in hill areas. Among the measures which he can influence is a doubling of walks covered by the Walks Scheme. This was promised in the Programme for Government and has yet to be delivered.
On ANC payments, Flor McCarthy pointed out the increase for 2018 of up to €700 must be followed by further increases to bring the maximum up to €6,000. This would represent a significant boost to hill farmers.
IFA Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy said there must be a stronger viable price for light lamb. “We need to be able to properly capture the real and full value of this quality product from the market place. We need to properly market and promote the product and there has to be more market diversification and new market outlets”.
10-POINT PLAN FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION FOR HILL FARMERS
- EID: Sheep farmers are not prepared to carry the €2m cost of EID and Minister Creed must fund the additional cost involved by €1 per head. Farmers selling store lambs destined for slaughter should not be penalised with the additional costs of 2 tags.
- Sheep Welfare Scheme: An additional €5 per ewe payment must be provided in Budget 2019 from the underspend in the Sheep Welfare Scheme and extra national resources. This is critical for both hill sheep and lowland farmers.
- Hill Lamb Markets: Sheep factories and Bord Bia need to improve market returns for hill sheep farmers and develop sustainable and quality market outlets capable of paying viable hill lamb prices.
- CAP Funding: The Government must resist the EU Commission attempts to cut the CAP Budget and Hill farmers must get stronger support under the Basic Payment, ANCs, Agri Environment and other farm schemes.
- Environmental Schemes: Under a new environmental scheme the maximum payment should be increased to €10,000, with higher payments for Designated and Commonage land.
- Designated SAC/SPA Land: Farmers who have restrictions imposed on farming and other developments must be compensated through a standardised per hectare payment. This payment must be paid by the NPWS and through the Rural Development Programme.
- ANC Review: Under the upcoming ANC Review, the new payment rates should reflect the difficult land in mountain areas and hill farmers must get a maximum payment of up to €6,000.
- The Walk Scheme: The Scheme, which currently supports 40 walks and benefits 2,000 farmers, must be doubled to an allocation of €4m. This was promised in the Programme for Government and must be delivered on.
- Eligible Land: Flexibilities must be introduced for hill farmers to claim marginal land for payment with the necessary latitude taken into account where farming conditions are extremely difficult.
- Implementation of Heritage Bill: The regulations governing the burning of gorse next March must be introduced in a flexible manner following the recent passing by Dáil Eireann of the Heritage Bill.