The IFA is to seek a compensation scheme to ensure that the 35,000 farmers impacted by designations are properly compensated for the restrictions placed on them.

Such a scheme would account for loss of earnings faced by the farmer as well as the devaluation of land as a result of designations on their land.

It is one of a number of priorities set out by the IFA's Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) project team.

The project team consists of representatives from Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs), with new members appointed by the IFA national officer committee.

The project team chair, Pat Murphy told the Irish Farmers Journal on Wednesday that the most important thing in relation to the compensation scheme is that if there are designations on land that farmers get paid for them.

“Every SAC is going to be different but it’ll be key to try and maximise the payment that they can get out of them.

“Some farmers are more severely impacted by SACs and can’t do anything on the land or get permission to work the land.

“There’s a lot of SACs and designated land not getting any payment at the minute, it’s just used as a way of getting farmers into the likes of ACRES as qualifying criteria.

“We want to make sure that we have a procedure established that once a designation remains on the land so too does compensation. That is currently not always the case," he said.

According Murphy 13.6% of the land in Ireland is designated as either SAC, SPA or NHA.

"While we acknowledge the role that designation plays in the protection of biodiversity and habitat loss, it is those who manage and upkeep these areas, the farmers and landowners, who ultimately pay the price," he argued.

Other key focus areas for the project team in the coming months include the implementation of the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) farm plan scheme, with members intending to engage with NPWS representatives in the coming weeks.

Beneficial actions

This scheme supports landowners to deliver environmentally beneficial actions on designated land.

"It is expected that 360 farm plans will be up and running by the end of the year.

"However, greater funding is needed to expand the number in the scheme, with increased payment rates to reflect the additional costs and burden on farmers whose land is designated," he said.

IFA has insisted that an enhanced farm plan scheme must be funded through the National Exchequer and all farmers with designations who apply for the scheme must be catered for.

The IFA, he said, will continue to participate on the Designated Area Monitoring Committee adding that farmers should not have to suffer income loss imposed by designations without proper compensation.