Farm bodies call for change to the Hen Harrier Scheme
The Hen Harriers scheme, introduced as part of the wildlife conservation programme in the 2007 CAP deal, is sterilising thousands of acres of productive land and causing untold hardship to hundreds of farmers who are participating in the scheme, ICMSA's Julian O'Keeffe claimed this week.
The abolition of the scheme or some drastic reforms to the conservation programme has to be given top priority by incoming Minister for the Arts and Heritage, Heather Humphries, whose department supervises the scheme, the dairy farmer organisation has insisted.
"Farmers involved in this scheme are in no man's land. They can't do anything with their land which is effectively sterilised from a development point of view most of the farmers participating in the scheme haven't even received their agreed compensation,'' Mr O'Keeffe told the Farming Independent this week.
"And the irony is that the hen harrier population hasn't increased since the scheme was introduced and in all probability has decreased," he added.
Some 200 farmers from Cork, Kerry and Limerick gathered in Charleville, Co Cork recently to highlight the problems with the conservation scheme and demand a complete reform of the programme.
Jason Fitzgerald (40), married with three children and farming 126ac of good to marginal land in Ballydesmond, north Cork,outlined his experiences with the scheme to the Farming Independent this week.
He returned to farming just over five years ago when the construction industry collapsed. He decided to develop a dairy farm on the good land on the family farm and convert the marginal land to forestry to underpin this dairy investment.
However, as the farm is in the Hen Harrier Scheme and is drawing an annual conservation allowance of €13,800, he is precluded from planting any of the land.