There were calls for a top-up payment to farmers who farm designated land at Tuesday night’s Connacht IFA meeting.

Pat Chambers, a farmer speaking at the meeting, said that Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protected Area (SPA) land in the first round of REPS back in 1996/97/98 received a payment of €242/ha.

“I think that we should be getting a top-up on that land. This SAC and SPA land is talked a lot about over the last number of years.

“I think it’s about time that we got a top-up payment of some form or another for that land, because we cannot go out and plough it, we just have minimum grazing with sheep on it, so I think there should be a payment for that land going forward,” he said.

Micheál Haverty asked what the IFA’s take would be “on farmers getting better compensation for land that is already designated into SACs and of poorer land quality as well”.

Eligible land

Another farmer said that designated land and SAC/SPA land should fit into future schemes due to its carbon and biodiversity value.

She said that in 2015 when the GLAS scheme was being implemented, she said she was told that non-utilised agricultural area (UAA) land was not eligible for the GLAS scheme.

“That went to Europe and back and non-UAA land kept coming back as not eligible.

“Previous speakers have spoken of SAC land and different land that they’re not permitted to do anything with it.

“So it sits there and it’s non-[utilised agricultural land] and equally it’s not eligible for any scheme.

“So can we now ensure that this non-UAA land, that is left as SAC and you’re penalised if you touch it, is now of major value in terms of carbon and biodiversity.

“Where does the non-UAA fit into all these schemes? They’re of major biodiversity value. It has to fit in somewhere.

“In 1996, 1997, 1998, people got into REPS on that land, they haven’t been allowed in since.

“This would solve both problems, they would be doing the carbon, the biodiversity and you’d be solving the problem of people being penalised for having SAC ground,” she said.

Schemes in designated areas

IFA president Tim Cullinan said that a top-up payment for designated land could come in the form of a carbon payment.

“If we can build environmental schemes around those areas, I think that’s the direction we need to go there. All of this is in the mix in CAP,” he said.