Land designations are something the Department of Agriculture will be “keeping central” in the design of the next CAP, Minster for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.

He told the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) AGM that while the Department doesn’t designate land, it does engage with farmers whose land has been designated.

“Within the next CAP, I think it is an important issue. It’s important that we do recognise the challenges and responsibilities on farmers through the designation and that that is reflected in terms of eligibility for schemes.

“It is something I will be keeping central to the way we design the next CAP and it will be something we’ll try and reflect as best we can,” he said.

Death knell

INHFA president Colm O’Donnell highlighted the importance of the EU’s biodiversity strategy, which proposed more land designation, and what it would mean for farmers in Ireland.

“I cannot overemphasise to you minister that this is something that will affect the type of land, the type of farming systems and farm families that we represent in the INHFA,” he said.

O’Donnell said the principles of the biodiversity strategy will be the “death knell of farming as we know it in these areas”.

“We’re not against managing carbon-rich ecosystems, we are against more designations,” he said.

Reference years for Sheep Welfare Scheme

In response to a question as to whether the reference years for the Sheep Welfare Scheme would remain “frozen in time”, the minister said that it would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

“There will be capacity there on a case-by-case basis to put forward the particular circumstances of an applicant and on that basis to reflect on the validity of changing the reference years.

“There will be capacity but it will be on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

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