Entire commonages could be 'burned out' to protect SFP warns planner

Threat: Forestry growers and insurers are concerned that the burning of commonage land could spark forest fires.
Threat: Forestry growers and insurers are concerned that the burning of commonage land could spark forest fires.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Planners believe that entire mountains are at risk of being set on fire by commonage farmers determined to maximise the area of land that qualifies for their 2015 Single Farm Payment application.

"Up to 80pc of commonages are going to be declared ineligible due to the amount of scrub," claimed Cahir planner Pat Burke who has over 150 clients with commonage in Munster and Connacht. He is convinced that farmers will set entire commonages alight in an effort to protect their Single Farm Payments over the next five years.

"The amount of land that they submit in 2015 will determine the level of payments that they receive until 2020. But if they go in and burn out entire commonages now, not only is it bad agricultural practice, it will probably also endanger neighbouring structures or woodlands," claimed Mr Burke.

"It would be better if we were given five years to make these areas eligible on the basis that we sort out 20pc each year. Payments could then be clawed back for any area that isn't brought up to speed by the end of the programme," he said.

Mr Burke also believes that he would be compromising the health and safety of his staff by sending them up the mountains to access commonages before the long days commence in the summer. "We're just looking for leeway on getting the work done - if it's not done to the Department's satisfaction by September, they can hold back payments," he said.

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