Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

IFA eyes more funding for Burren Life reincarnation

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

More than 100 farmers have been accepted for the new environmental scheme which is to take over from the Burren Life Project.

However, with more than 200 farmer applicants likely to miss out on the scheme, the IFA has called for increased funding for the project.

The Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP) was given the green light in May, with €3m being allocated for the project up to the end of 2012.

The scheme is being jointly funded through the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and aims to build on the success of the Burren Life Project which finished last year.

Like its predecessor, the BFCP aims to protect the unique landscape of the Burren by encouraging farmers to return to traditional farming methods.

A central plank of the scheme is the out-wintering of stock on the limestone escarpments of the 'high Burren'. This has been shown to help control hazel scrub encroachment and help conserve biodiversity.

Up to 338 farmers applied to join the BFCP but just 120 are likely to be accepted.

Programme director Dr Brendan Dunford said this was unfortunate but was due to the limited funding available.

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He pointed out that applications for the scheme had been scored on agreed criteria. These included the amount of land each applicant farmed in the Burren, the number of listed monuments on their land, whether farmers had been in REPS, the percentage of the applicant's holding designated as an SAC and previous involvement in the Burren Life Project.

However, Burren IFA chairman Michael Davoren said the scoring system was in fact a blocking mechanism to stop farmers entering the scheme.

He said the allocation of a further €2m would ensure a place in the BFCP for all 338 applicants and secure the future of the Burren.

While Mr Davoren said the new scheme had been developed with the active participation of local farmers he pointed out that just one in six of the Burren's 700 farmers had been accepted for the programme.

"I hope further funding will be put in place to meet this shortfall," Mr Davoren said.

The maximum payment available under the scheme is €15,000/applicant. The average is expected to be around €8,000.

Irish Independent