Farmers on peatlands and wetlands are up in arms over plans to impose new rules in the next CAP which they believe threaten farmers’ “ability to exist” on these lands.
In a letter sent to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has demanded a change to draft legislation to allay farmers’ fears.
A new Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC 2) will impose additional requirements on those farming peatlands and wetlands to receive a direct payment.
The INHFA wants it explicitly stated that these carbon-rich soils will maintain their agricultural area status when the new rules are imposed.
INHFA president Colm O’Donnell warned that while farmers have always extended their goodwill to the public on their lands, it could not be taken for granted if a farm’s agricultural status was threatened.
Minister McConalogue has sought to ease farmers’ fears around the proposals.
In the Dáil last Thursday, he stressed that peatlands and wetlands would remain eligible hectares.
Independent TD Thomas Pringle had brought forward a motion calling for the removal of the European Council’s legal text, but the minister said he would not do so.
“This approach is the best one for Irish farmers. I assure you of that,” Minister McConalogue told TDs.
“Introducing the standard will require us to consider what management practices can best support good farming practices that protect our environment, taking our own local farming conditions into account.
“That is not a prohibition on farming. I unequivocally back, support and defend farming in these areas.”
However, Colm O’Donnell pointed out that before the practices were even specified, the council was already seeking a provision to allow payments continue if GAEC 2 undermines farming activity.
The INHFA views the inclusion of such a provision as a derogation.
“It would be reckless for us to ignore the obvious dangers associated with a derogation, which is often time-specific,” O’Donnell said.
Minister McConalogue insisted that the council text simply states these areas are automatically viewed as eligible hectares.
He also stressed that the standards introduced under GAEC 2 will not prevent farmers carrying out agricultural activities.