At a meeting with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys this week, IFA President Joe Healy urged the Minister to proceed with the Heritage Bill which involves changes to the hedge-cutting and gorse burning dates.
Joe Healy said that in the last Government this Bill had passed the Senate but had not been presented to the Dáil. It is now important that the Bill, which involves allowing hedge-cutting in August and extending the burning date from end of February to end of March. These changes will make a significant impact on farming and will allow better management of hedgerows and hill areas.
The IFA President also raised with the Minister the need for compensation for farmers in designated SAC, SPA and NHA areas, which the National Parks and Wildlife Service has fallen down on over the last number of years. Farmers will not accept designations of land without proper compensation.
IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady pointed out to the Minister that the GLAS scheme is only partly compensating farmers and that her Department has a key role to play in ensuring that compensation is paid for. The Locally Led Agri-environment scheme is being put out there as a solution to farmers who have restrictions imposed but it is clear that this scheme will fall short of what is required.
In relation to CFRAMS Flood Management Plans, which are now being produced, IFA insisted that the National Parks and Wildlife Service must not have a veto in relation to works that are required to alleviate flooding.
On forestry, Joe Healy impressed upon the Minister the need to conclude the discussions on the Hen Harrier areas so that forestry can proceed in these areas. Forestry development has been frozen in these areas for the past six years and this has led to significant losses for landowners who wish to forest their land or those who wish to sell their land for forestry.
Other issues raised by the IFA delegation, which also included Hill Chairman Pat Dunne and Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney, were the proposed deer cull in Co Wicklow, the Designated Areas Appeals Board, turf-cutting and compensation and the update on the Leader Programme.