Nature restoration and rewetting funding “needs to be additional” to the EU’s CAP resources, according to Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan.
Speaking at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual conference last week, he warned against division between farmers and environmentalists and a “spat” over the looming EU nature restoration law.
The Minister said he “absolutely, fundamentally” disagrees that nature restoration or rewetting will impact Ireland’s family farming system, but could not comment on whether it would mean a de-intensification of Irish agriculture, at the very least.
He said commentary by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that nature restoration targets go “too far” is “not reflective of what the actual law is saying”.
“For those that depict it as you’re going to flood the land, force people out of farming – it’s the exact opposite.
“Let’s not get divided into a spat over a law in Brussels which we do need but which, in my mind, isn’t the threat that some people present it to our farming future,” he insisted.
Minister Ryan said that even on farmland which will contribute to nature restoration, there will still be a need for grazing by cattle and sheep.
“It will still be people farming, still grazing. This is about good management of land and farmers know their land best. No one is going to be forced.
"They will have to be paid but in that system then, that’s smart farming,” he added.
The Green Party leader said that if marginal peatlands are left “abandoned” to nature, native forestry will drain the peaty soils and lead to a carbon loss.
Therefore, continued farming is required, he said.
“That cow, sheep and that farmer is going to be the climate hero because they’re storing carbon in how we farm,” he added.