IFA SAC Project Chairman Padraic Joyce has welcomed the €1m announcement in yesterday’s Budget for the Farm Plan Scheme. However, this must be seen as a stepping stone to a much broader scheme to address the serious impact of land designations on farmers.
At a recent meeting with Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan in advance of the Budget, IFA called on her to properly compensate farmers for restrictions imposed on them with designated Natura land, through the reopening of the NPWS Farm Plan. This Budget move is the first recognition for some time that farmers have a burden on their land which must be compensated for.
“We have been in discussions with her Department for the past 18 months, with a deal yet to be finalised. Critical to any agreement with Government is a package of measures including the re-opening of the NPWS farm plan scheme, which has been closed since 2010. The Budget decision should now allow this to happen,” he said.
“While a final agreement with the Department is close, the main issue for Minister Madigan is a meaningful compensation scheme for farmers affected by designations. The announcement in yesterday’s Budget must now result in the reopening of the NPWS farm plan scheme,” he said.
Padraic Joyce pointed out that there has some progress made in the talks on conciliation and arbitration to determine losses; the principle of payment for the provision of ecosystem services; a claims process where a farmer is refused consent to carry out activities on their land; and a commitment to conclude the Hen Harrier threat response plan.
Many of these issues have been dragging on for 18 months, since talks commenced on a new agreement on procedures and compensation arrangements for farmers with designated land. However, the Minister must now get these issues over the line.