A local approach to agri-environmental payments
In an eight-part series, Odile Evans takes a look at how Locally Led Agri-Environmental Schemes can benefit farmers, the environment and the wider community.

Farmers have always had an astute connection to the soil, the environment and the fields in which they toil. Through knowledge handed down over generations, they have an inherent understanding of the local ecosystem and the dynamics within the food chain.

Locally Led Agri-Environmental Schemes (LLAES) allow farmers to provide the solutions to issues in their own area so that they can benefit agriculture, the environment and the local economy. They may be seen as a return to old farming practices, but in fact this is more a case of marrying the old with the new; maintaining traditions that are necessary for good management and ensuring farming is viable for the next generation.

The Burren leading the way

Farmers in the Burren witnessed the deterioration of their agricultural landscape that had been farmed over thousands of years. Environmental schemes under pillar two of the CAP (rural development) did not address the issues specific to the Burren. After commissioning scientific research into agricultural practices, they secured funding from the European LIFE fund, kickstarting the Aran Islands tourists and Kerry mussels

Working in a similar karst landscape, farmers on the Aran islands campaigned for a locally led scheme modelled on the one in the Burren and are now running the

A local approach to the hen harrier issue

A Locally Led Agri-Environmental Scheme (LLAES) that would Meanwhile, farmers in the Wicklow uplands are concerned about the lack of young blood coming back to farm the mountains. The Wicklow Uplands Council has drafted a scheme called Sustainable Uplands Agri-Environmental Scheme (SUAS) to address that and other issues such as burning.

Similarly, the Blackstairs Farming Group has created its own Higher Nature Value (HNV) scheme for which members hope to obtain funding.

Addressing undergrazing

A common theme in all of these areas is that of undergrazing. The intensification of agriculture in the last few decades has made these landscapes harder to derive an agricultural income from. More lucrative jobs in urban centres have become more attractive to the younger generations. With fewer hands to work the land, destocking has caused undergrazing which lets the scrub takeover, changing the nature of the habitats and the flora and fauna that can survive there.

By funding locally led agri-environmental schemes, Rural Development Programme can not only keep farming attractive for future generations, but also maintain the rare species of plants found in the Burren, the attractive landscape of the Aran islands, the freshwater pearl mussel, the small birds for the hen harrier to feed on and the upland areas in the Wicklow and Blackstairs mountains.

Not only do locally led schemes add an environmental value to agricultural production in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), they also combat rural isolation by bringing farmers together to achieve a common goal. As can be seen in the Burren, engaging with the wider community educates farmers and locals to be mindful of the contribution agriculture makes to nature and ensures the success of a locally led scheme.

IFA to oppose farm loan sales at AIB meeting
Farmer representatives will highlight the sale of farmers' debts to vulture funds as the bank's shareholders gather this week.

IFA representatives will lobby AIB shareholders at the bank's annual in Dublin this Wednesday.

The IFA will "have a presence outside the AIB AGM in Dublin" a statement from the organisation reads.

It continues: "This is part of a planned campaign to be rolled out nationally against AIB’s plans to sell certain farmer loans as part of its most recent loan sale."

Earlier this month, the Irish Farmers Journal revealed that around 100 farm loans were included in AIB's planned sale of debts to an affiliate of US-based vulture fund Cerberus.

While not a call for a farmers' protest, the small-scale lobbying is likely to be repeated around the country in the coming weeks, an IFA spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.

AIB is 71% owned by the Irish Government.

Read more

Banks in last-chance saloon with public

Up to 100 farms in AIB loan sale

Exclusive: Rabobank sells 1,800 farm loans

Queally brothers firm falls foul of EPA
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the latest National Priority Sites list, with five businesses not meeting the necessary environmental standards.

Five sites are on the latest list for failing to meet the necessary environmental standards set out by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

One of the companies, food processor Arrow Group, is owned by the Queally brothers, who also own Dawn Meats.

Arrow Group previously appeared on the environment watchlist in January this year.

All the companies on the list face further enforcement action from the EPA to secure compliance.

The five sites represent less than 1% of industrial sites licensed by the EPA, but account for 21% of complaints received.

Three sites are new to the list, while Glanbia Food Ireland Ltd and Rosderra Irish Meats have been removed from the list that was published in January.

The five companies included are:

  • Arrow Group, Kildare – noise and odour complaints.

  • Euroflex Teoranta, Donegal – emissions to air and waste management.

  • Western Brand Group Ltd, Mayo – wastewater management.

  • East Cork Landfill Site, Cork – landfill gas and leachate management.

  • Arran Chemical Company Ltd, Roscommon – emissions to air and groundwater.

Enforcement

Licensed facilities are identified as national priority sites for enforcement using a system developed by the EPA.

Points are allocated to each site based on compliance data such as complaints, incidents and non-compliances over the previous six months.

Sites which exceed a certain threshold become a national priority site and are targeted by the EPA for further enforcement action.

The farmer's daily wrap: lamb prices, milk production and Donegal wildfire
Here is your news round-up of the top five farming stories today, Monday 22 April.

Weather forecast

Tuesday morning will feature scattered heavy showers but it will be mainly dry for the afternoon/evening.

Met Éireann is forecasting hazy sunshine and another warm day, with top temperatures of 17°C to 21°C in light to moderate southeast breezes.

In the news

  • The Air Corps is to join fire brigades battling a Co Donegal gorse fire that began in the early hours of Monday.
  • Milk production in both New Zealand and the Netherlands has been tightening significantly in the first quarter of 2019.
  • The timing of two religious festivals, Easter and Ramadan, could bode well for lamb prices for the next five years.
  • The Department of Agriculture will host Basic Payment Scheme clinics in Offaly, Tipperary, Westmeath and Monaghn this week.
  • Watch potato, grain and beef farmer Mark McGurdy sow cereals through the night in Co Antrim.
  • - Coming up tomorrow, 23 April 2019:

  • Leitrim suckler farmer Karen McCabe on the never-ending battle with rushes, a weak calf and an unexpected win in the show ring.
  • The latest update from the BETTER farm beef programme from Matthew Halpin.
  • A look at what's happening on the international grain markets from Stephen Robb.