IFA deputy president Brian Rushe has said that if farmers aren’t sitting at the table when it comes to Bord na Móna’s rewetting plans, then they’re on the menu.
He told a meeting of up to 180 farmers on bog rewetting on Tuesday night that the IFA needs Bord na Móna to explain the detail of its rewetting plans and is pushing them to make commitments to farmers.
“If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu. We’re on the pitch,” he said.
Addressing concerns from farmers over the future ownership of the bogs after the rewetting process is complete, Rushe said that agriculture needs to have first refusal on that land should Bord na Móna decide to sell.
“What happens to the carbon if Bord na Móna was to sell? That carbon is obviously of value to companies and to people that want to offset. We’re very clear on this.
“The first refusal or first option on any of that has to go to farming and agriculture in general. We have to see the benefit from that if that was ever going to happen.
“We’re very clear that Bord na Móna needs to remain in control. We want to make sure that farmers' land doesn’t end up being designated by a back door. We’ll be flagging that,” he said.
Oliver Neville from the Rahan IFA branch in Offaly said that farmers are deeply concerned.
“Farmers [are] deeply concerned about this, especially dairy farmers, because they’re dependent on this land to grow grass to feed their animals and produce milk.
“They’ve made serious investment since quotas went,” he said.
Liam McEvoy from east Galway said that he had concerns that the REPS scheme could be used as a front to rewet the bogs.
“The REPS scheme that everybody is hoping for, that was promised in the run-up to the election, they’re going [to be] using that I would suspect to rewet the bogs and do it for them,” he said.
Full rigours of planning
IFA South Leinster regional chair Francie Gorman said that the one message that needs to be sent out to Bord na Móna is that irrespective of what they do inside their own gates, that they cannot be allowed to impact on people farming neighbouring land to the bogs.
“The lack of transparency that they’ve shown about how they’re going to do this feeds into me a huge level of distrust.
“You can’t compensate people for taking their land off them forever more. This is about protecting people’s farmland that they’ve farmed for generations.
“I also think that Bord na Móna should be subjected to the full rigours of the planning laws in how they go about this,” he said.
Code of conduct
Connacht IFA chair Pat Murphy said the IFA needs to get commitments off Bord na Móna that into the future there will be a code of practice dealing with adjacent farmers to land which is rewet.
“We need a commitment, legally binding, that adjacent farmers will be helped and will not be affected if this is sold on. Someone to ensure that those adjacent farms are maintained.”
For more, see this week’s Irish Farmers Journal.