Twenty Leitrim farmers whose lands were affected by a landslide in 2020 will have force majeure applied to their 2021 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application, Minister McConalogue has said.

In response to questions from Sligo Leitrim TD Marian Harkin in the Dáil this week, he said that Department of Agriculture officials are contacting the affected landowners or their advisers letting them know that force majeure will apply in respect of their applications.

“Affected applicants should ensure that their applications for participation in the various farm schemes in 2021 are submitted as required before any applicable closing dates, most notably and most urgently the basic scheme application, which must be submitted by 17 May,” he said.

Impacted area

The Department has assessed and mapped, using satellite and GPS, the ground of the land parcels apparently affected together with the land use, the Minister said.

“This exercise included an estimation of the area affected. This assessment and mapping exercise indicates that approximately 20 herd owners, the members of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Green Low-carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS) participants, and eight forestry owners were adversely impacted by the landslide.

“The estimated areas directly damaged by the landslide are approximately 24ha of farmland and 12ha of forestry,” he said.

Ten months ago, thousands of tonnes of peat and trees were washed down the Shass Mountain and on to farmland in the county due to a landslide.

Harkin said farmers had not been given any advice of whether their 2021 payments could fall under force majeure.

“One of the commitments they make is that their land is in good agricultural and environmental condition.

“How are they supposed to do this when there are several feet of peat on the land? They cannot walk on it let alone put out an animal,” she said.

She welcomed the commitment from the Minister that force majeure will apply to the farmers’ BPS applications for 2021.

However, she said there will still other issues which remain.

“I spoke to landowners whose drains are blocked, for example. Huge drains that would normally perhaps be 6ft deep and 8ft or 9ft wide are blocked. What are they supposed to do?

“Can they clear out those drains because that is having a negative impact on the rest of their land? We need much more positive proactive engagement from the Department.

"People want to stay within the regulations and the law, but they do not know what to do. I would appreciate that engagement,” she said.

Minister McConalogue encouraged everyone to continue to work through the working group.