Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 24 September 2017

New farm representative body goes national

Colm O'Donnell reads aloud a letter to An Taoiseach on behalf of hill sheep farmers who staged a protest outside Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Michael McLaughlin
Colm O'Donnell reads aloud a letter to An Taoiseach on behalf of hill sheep farmers who staged a protest outside Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Michael McLaughlin
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The new farmer representative body established recently to represent hill and commonage farmers is to be called the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

The new organisation said it intended to become the "voice for farmers living in the most rural areas of the country."

In a statement released yesterday, the INHFA said it would hold a series of public meetings to discuss and formulate a policy platform for the association.

"We have put together a project team comprising of farmers from many areas around the country with the goal of having the mechanics of the new organisation in place over the coming number of weeks," INHFA stated.

"At that stage we will be holding public meetings where the grass roots of the new organisation will be encouraged to shape the policies and direction of its future," it added.

The new farm body has grown out of the Hill Farmers for Action group which opposed Department of Agriculture moves to introduce commonage management plans (CMPs) for upland areas.

Each CMP had to be supported by at least 50pc of the active shareholders on the particular commonage before farmers could apply for GLAS. And farmers had to make collective applications for the environmental scheme. These so called 'collective agreements' have been totally rejected by hill farmers.

The protest campaign against the Department policy, and resentment with the IFA over its perceived failure to support hill farmers, led to the formation of the new organisation.

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Meanwhile, the INHFA claimed this week that their opposition to the Department's commonage proposals had already forced concessions from Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney.

Speaking at the IFA AGM last week Minister Coveney said hill farmers joining GLAS could apply individually making reference to the CMP for their particular commonage.

"This movement by the minister is coming closer to the view we put forward in our 12-point plan that commonage farmers apply as individuals referring to the CMP," the INHFA stated.

"It is equally encouraging that the IFA president Eddie Downey has commented that IFA are now not happy with the 50pc collective agreement for commonage farmers to gain priority access into GLAS," it added.

"Commonage farmers must now be allowed to apply individually for GLAS before May 15 and develop the CMPs in consultation with planners over the summer period," the new association claimed.

"Our view is that the only way to start the process of developing a CMP is to have the Department of Agriculture commission the plans and appoint their agent or advisor under agreed terms (including methods of payment for plans) with all stakeholders," INHFA insisted.

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