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Farmers to net €5.5m from hen harrier and pearl mussel schemes

Over €5.5m will be paid out this year to farmers participating in conservation programmes for the hen harrier and the fresh-water pearl mussel.

Along with the €4.4m for farmers in the hen harrier programme and the €1.1m paid to those involved in the pearl mussel project, a further €200,000 will be paid out in local actions in the Hen Harrier programme.

That is according to a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture.

The Hen Harrier Programme is one of the schemes funded under the European Innovation Partnerships measure. The total fund available for the locally led, designed and administrated five-year programme is €24m.

The Hen Harrier Programme started in April 2017 and focusses specifically on farmers managing habitat in the six Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas. The high-nature-value farmland being managed by participants contains the most important breeding areas for hen harriers in Ireland.


The spokesman said: "Up to the end of December 2019, over €4.6m was issued to farmers, with a further €223,000 paid in local actions. It is estimated that they will pay over €4.4m in farmer payments for 2020, with a further €200,000 in local actions."

The spokesman said that the Hen Harrier Programme has received over 1,500 valid applications and that it includes a points-based habitat payment based on the results of the habitat quality delivered by the farmers during the pervious breeding season.

In 2019, 342 farmers were accepted into the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel project, with further contract offers expected to be made in 2020.

The spokesman said: "Up to the end of December 2019 over €664,000 was issued to farmers.

"It is estimated that they will pay over €1.1m in farmer payments for 2020."

The ancient mussel has existed virtually unchanged for around 50 million years and has survived in Ireland in large numbers and high densities across many rivers and some lakes for in excess of 10,000 years.

The mussel, which can live up to 120 years, is present in 150 rivers around the country and is not edible.

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