A total of 547,578.93ha of Natura 2000 land was claimed by farmers last year under the Basic Payment Scheme.

Natura 2000 land is land which is classified as either a Special Protection Area (SPA) or Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and it is eligible for area-based schemes such as the BPS and Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC).

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said Kerry, Mayo, Galway and Donegal each have in excess of 50,000ha of Natura 2000 land receiving payments.

“Counties Kildare, Monaghan, Longford and Meath have smaller areas, with less than 1,500ha for each county declared in 2019 and 2020,” he said.

Farmers in Kerry have over 103,000ha of designated land in the BPS, farmers in Galway have over 79,000ha and farmers in Mayo have over 88,000ha.

Important resource

Minister McConalogue said that Natura agricultural lands form a significant part of the overall eligible agricultural area within Ireland's Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) and are an important resource, not only in terms of agricultural production but also in terms of biodiversity.

“While much of the Natura area is agricultural lands, a significant proportion is made up of non-agricultural areas such as marine habitats, foreshore, etc,” he said.

He added that most of the Natura areas exist within western counties but that all parts of the country have these important agricultural habitats.