Review raises hopes of fresh Natura concession
The campaign to secure a €150/ha payment on Natura land for farmers in AEOS took a further twist last week, with the Department of Agriculture promising another review of the issue.
The move follows a sit-in protest at Department headquarters in Dublin last Wednesday involving the chairmen of each of the Connacht counties and representatives from Donegal, as well as Tom Turley, the IFA rural development committee chairman, and hill committee chairman Tom Fadian.
The intervention of IFA president John Bryan late on Wednesday evening resulted in a three-hour meeting between the farmer representatives and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
In a statement issued by the Department, Minister Coveney said he would look again at the AEOS Natura payment in the context of the ongoing expenditure review, which is due to be completed at the end of July.
The minister said he would not make any commitment on the payment until the review was complete. He also explained that the EU Commission would have to approve the higher payment were it resubmitted to them at that stage.
It was unclear whether the decision to launch the sit-in in the Kildare Street offices had been cleared by IFA headquarters, but sources maintained that it had not.
When asked if the move had been a solo-run by west of Ireland farmers, an IFA spokesman said: "We're all in this together and the fight for concessions on this issue is being led by the president [John Bryan]."
An increase in the AEOS payment on Natura land from €75/ha to €150/ha has been sought by west of Ireland farmers since the scheme was launched.