EU auditors to visit Ireland over biodiversity in farming

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The European Court of Auditors will visit Ireland as part of an audit to assess whether the EU’s agricultural policy helps maintain and enhance biodiversity.

In particular, the auditors will examine the design of the EU biodiversity strategy and its application in the common agricultural policy (CAP).

They will also assess the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EU funding for biodiversity in farming.

Agricultural biodiversity refers to all ecosystems and life forms directly related to farming.

This includes rare seed varieties and animal breeds, many organisms such as soil fauna, weeds, pests, predators, and all of the native plants and animals living on and passing through a farm.

Biodiversity in the EU is in a continuous, strong decline, particularly as a result of farming activity.

“One million species worldwide are at risk of extinction, a recent international report warns. In the EU, agriculture is the largest contributor to biodiversity loss”, said Janusz Wojciechowski, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the audit.

“Our audit will determine how helpful EU contribution has been to correct and even reverse this situation.”

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In 2011, the EU adopted its current biodiversity strategy, which aims to help stop biodiversity loss by 2020.

One of its main targets is to increase the contribution of agriculture to at least maintaining the same level of biodiversity.

According to European Commission estimates, around €85 billion has been earmarked for the 2014-2020 period to tackle biodiversity loss. EU support for farmland biodiversity comes mainly from the CAP.

The audit will assess the contribution of the EU’s agriculture policy in the period 2014-2020 to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity by 2020. In particular, the auditors will examine whether the Commission and the Member States have improved farming’s contribution to biodiversity.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has defended his Departments record on biodiverstiy stating that it regards the state of our national biodiversity with the upmost importance.

He said this is reflected in the significant investment in biodiversity supports through the Rural Development programme and it’s suite of schemes and measures.

"GLAS (The Green Low-Carbon Agri-environment Scheme) supports approx. 50,000 farmers to carry out actions and measures which support farmland biodiversity such as the Farmland Bird, Low Input Permanent Pasture, Traditional Hay Meadow actions and Commonage Management Plans. DAFM’s European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) programme, has seen Ireland lead the way in its development of the locally led approach, supporting farming communities from the bottom-up.

"A total of €59 million has been awarded to 23 projects including the Hen Harrier Project and the Pearl Mussel Project," he said.

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