Farmers cannot be hoodwinked into a situation with massive long-term implications in future schemes, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has said.

An INHFA spokesperson said this has already happened in the past.

“Farmers in the late 1990s were sold a pig in a bag in a well-funded REPS [that was] brought in on the back of SAC and SPA designations.

“The REPS ended, but the designations and their associated implications remain.”

Commenting on the agri-environmental schemes under consideration for designated land, the INHFA said it was concerned that the full cost of the burden of designations would fall on farmers. ”

The farm organisation called for clarity on the rewetting of land, asking if farmers who choose to rewet their land under short-term programmes will continue to meet CAP conditionality for payments.

It is also seeking clarification on whether a farmer who rewets land under a scheme would be later permitted to drain that ground again.

“Are such short-term payments potentially a back door to sterilising it from agricultural use?” it asks.