IFA President Tim Cullinan has emphatically rejected land designations and will be telling the Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan at a forthcoming meeting that restrictions are having a detrimental effect on rural areas.
The IFA President said any increase in designated land will be strongly resisted by farmers. The Programme for Government has no mention of more designations and IFA will be holding the Government to account on this.
He also pointed out that IFA had commitments from previous Ministers for Heritage Josepha Madigan and Heather Humphries that there would be no more designations.
“In discussions with the National Parks and Wildlife over the past two years on a new agreement on designated land, not once has the issue of additional designations been raised with IFA. Furthermore, any State land purchases by NPWS to increase national parks will not be accepted,” he said.
IFA Hill Farming Chairman Flor McCarthy said IFA has consistently said where Natura designations are imposed under the EU Habitats or Birds Directive, farmers and landowners must be properly compensated. IFA is opposed to any suggestion of destocking of sheep in hill areas as it seriously impacts on the livelihoods of farmers and will lead to further economic decline in areas which are already struggling.
“Current payment arrangements under locally-led or the NPWS scheme are totally inadequate as they don’t address the fundamental issue of loss of income and the devaluation of land values,” he said.
IFA is seeking a substantial increase in the allocation to the NPWS Farm Plan scheme in the forthcoming Budget.
“We will be demanding a proper consultation on any projects that are taking place in Natura areas such as the Life Nature Project in blanket bog areas in the west and north west and the rewetting of bogs as part of the Just Transition Programme on raised midland bogs,” he said.