The IFA has welcomed clarification that farmers participating in the Wild Atlantic Nature Project will be allowed to stock their land to its potential.

An IFA delegation met this week with representatives from the Wild Atlantic Nature Project, voicing hill farmers’ concerns surrounding the flexibility allowed to farmers in the new project.

The project is focused on the blanket bog Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) from Galway Bay to north Donegal, with the objective of delivering good habitat quality in these areas.

The IFA group at the meeting included rural development chairman Michael Biggins, hill committee chairman Flor McCarthy, Mayo hill representative Pat Chambers and Mayo chairman Jarlath Walsh.

Flexibility needed

The flexibility afforded to farmers participating in the scheme was a high priority for the IFA contingent.

“The Wild Atlantic Nature Life IP, or any other scheme, must not lead to increased restrictions on farms and we welcome clarification that participating farmers will be allowed to stock their land to its potential,” commented McCarthy.

The Wild Atlantic Nature project was represented by Derek McLoughlin and Garry Goggins. Both gave detailed presentations on the system that will be used to score land parcels on inspection.

Project details

Th highest scores will be awarded to undisturbed ground with abundant local grasses, heathers and moss. Poaching or overgrazing will reduce inspection scores.

A pilot of the project is planned to run in the Owenduff-Nephin SAC area for 2021 and 2022, with payments to be received for both years. Details of the new scheme are to be published and circulated to hill farmers in the area immediately.

Hill farmers in the area will be able to submit an expression of interest from Monday May 21 until June 14.

Michael Biggins made clear the IFA’s intention that all farmers who submit an expression of interest to participate in the project must be included, while Jarlath Walsh advised those who wished to join the pilot to familiarise themselves with the terms and conditions before applying.