The Government is open to hearing ideas for new farm schemes for the new €3.15bn climate and nature fund announced in Budget 2024.

The legislation underpinning the €3.15bn climate and nature fund is still in development.

However, ongoing challenges remain on how the capital expenditure fund could be utilised for farm schemes, most of which see yearly farmer payments, rather than funding the one-off rollout of capital measures.

“We want to make sure that fund is able to deliver, through rural communities, actions for nature and ensure that farmers need to be paid for their actions, and some of the results-based schemes are working very well and are very popular with farmers as well,” Minister of State Malcolm Noonan told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“We are still evolving that process and we are still working with the Department of Public Expenditure on the legislation that will underpin it, and what would trigger certain projects to come from it would be the actions in the national biodiversity action plan.”

Minister Noonan emphasised that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) remains “open to how we can make it work” for farmers and he called on farming organisations to bring forward any ideas they have on allocating the funds.

National parks

Among the measures included in the recently-launched national biodiversity action plan is the expansion of the NPWS’s Farm Plan Scheme and the commitment that the network of national parks will be expanded.

The use of compulsory purchase orders to expand existing or acquire new national parks was firmly ruled out by Minister Noonan, who said that lands would be bought on the open market, as is the current practice.