The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan has been called on by the IFA to ensure that farmers with designated natura land are properly compensated for the restrictions placed on them.

IFA Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) project team chair Padraic Joyce said at an IFA protest on Monday at the Department of Heritage that the minister’s lack of engagement on the matter is not acceptable.

“We have been in discussions for the past 18 months. The minister's lack of engagement on the matter is not acceptable. The IFA sought a meeting with the minister some months ago, but she has so far not met with IFA.

“We must have a package of measures in the forthcoming Budget which will see the re-opening of the NPWS [National Parks and Wildlife Service] farm plan scheme, which has been closed since 2010,” Joyce said.

Meaningful compensation

Joyce said that the main issue for Minister Madigan is a meaningful compensation scheme for farmers affected by natura designations.

“The Minister must deliver on this crucial issue, as farmers with designated land throughout the country are being denied their rights to maximise the potential of their land, due to the severe farming and developmental restrictions imposed on them.

“[Some] 13.6% of the land is designated as either SAC [Special Areas of Conservation] or SPA [Special Protection Areas], impacting around 35,000 farmers. The farming and development restrictions devalue their property and leads to income loss,” he said.

Joyce pointed out that there has been some progress made in the talks with Department to determine losses and on the claims process, since talks commenced on a new agreement.

However, the IFA says the minister seems “incapable of getting these crucial issues over the line and farmers have lost confidence in her commitment to delivering a workable deal”.

Joyce said that these discussions will mean very little if the minister does not deliver a proper compensation scheme as part of the next Budget in two weeks’ time.

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