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Tuesday 17 July 2018

Hill farmers call for €150/ac payment on designated land

Colm O'Donnell, INHFA chairman at a previous protest outside Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Michael McLaughlin
Colm O'Donnell, INHFA chairman at a previous protest outside Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Michael McLaughlin
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

A payment of €150/ha on all designated land (Natura) is being sought by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

The INHFA demand follows the commencement of the formal ratification of Natura 2000 sites by the Department of Agriculture.

"While landowners have being operating under the burden of these candidate designations for some time, no recognition of their actual burden has been acknowledged by the State," said INHFA president Colm O'Donnell.

Mr O'Donnell said the €150/ha was justified given the restrictions placed on farmers with Natura lands.

"There are 39 activities requiring consent (ARCs), which even if received often means a financial cost to farmers through the requirement of planning," he pointed out.

Currently farmers with Natura lands are restricted from fencing, reclamation or ploughing, digging or infilling, said Mr O'Donnell.

Devalued

Further restrictions include increasing or reducing the holding's stocking rate or type of stock, controlled burning, applying lime, fertiliser or farmyard manure.

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While all sites may not be subject to all 39 ARCs, Mr O'Donnell said one formal designation he had seen had 20 ARCs to comply with.

"This effectively sterilises and devalues the land," said Mr O'Donnell.

"The legal burden [of designation] will significantly devalue the property and risk the continued viability of farm families in these areas, which is why a payment of €150/ha/year to landowners is a small price for Europe and the State in helping to protect these sites."

Meanwhile, the Department has sought applications from agricultural consultants to draw up commonage management plans (CMPs) for 300 different sites. The CMPs relate to GLAS applications.


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