The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has said it is stunned by proposals in the new results-based agri-environmental pilot (REAP) to exclude commonages and land containing heather from the scheme.
Tensions were high at a meeting between Department officials and farmer representatives on Thursday afternoon, where details of the new scheme were presented.
INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said: “These lands are predominately peat based and prime habitats for a wide range of fauna, such as the endangered red grouse, which is an annex one red listed bird.
“It is shocking that an agri-environmental programme supported by the Irish State and the EU ignores the most valuable lands in the country, with a high percentage of these forming part of the Natura 2000 network.”
As REAP is a pilot, it will be instrumental in forming the basis for the next agri-environmental scheme in the new CAP.
“Excluding these lands increases our suspicion that the habitats and biodiversity is of secondary importance to the carbon asset that many believe and hope these lands can deliver,” O’Donnell continued.
“Similar to what is happening in the CAP negotiations under GAEC 2, where prescribed actions could make peat soils ineligible, this pilot has also identified large areas of peat soils for exclusion.”
The INHFA has questioned if commonage and hill land where heather dominates will get access to any such scheme.
A budget of €10m has been proposed for the scheme.
“All farmers will be disappointed with the level of support, which is well short of the €1.5bn in the State's carbon fund that was initially suggested, or the more modest €79m outlined in last autumn’s budget,” O’Donnell said.