Flight and fight: farmers in hen harrier areas still not compensated
Thousands of farmers are still waiting for a definitive compensation scheme on lands affected by the EU's protected status for the hen harrier
Eight months after a new agri-environmental scheme was first announced, farmers with designated lands in hen harrier areas are still waiting.
A total of €70m has been allocated for the Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme (LLAES), announced by former Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney in October.
Two hundred farmers were recruited into the Burren Programme in January for a five-year contract with further tranches promised to double participation.
The Department of Agriculture says it hopes specific complementary Hen Harrier and Freshwater Pearl Mussel schemes will open for applications in the second half of 2016.
However, this is subject to ongoing negotiations with the European Commission and budgets have yet to be allocated.
Over half of the 3,860 farmers whose land has been designated as a special protection area (SPA) for the hen harrier have already joined GLAS, described by the Department as "the most successful agri-environment scheme ever launched", guaranteeing hen harrier farmers access ahead of others, and one of the highest per hectare payments of €370pa.
Minister Michael Creed has encouraged more farmers to come in when the third tranche is launched later this year, taking the GLAS hen harrier measure on as much land as they can, and then applying for the LLAES on the balance of their land, which he says will guarantee the best return.
However, Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL), which represents the hen harrier farmers, says GLAS had too many shortcomings to begin with. "GLAS was a very poor effort for compensation and there were a lot of problems with it and it didn't suit everyone," IFDL chairman Liam O'Keeffe told the Farming Independent.