The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said it is very disappointed that the nature restoration law was passed by the European Parliament.

ICSA president Seán McNamara said while the rewetting element of the law was scaled back, it is still unclear if these targets will be met in the future without farmland.

“A lot has been said about rewetting and it is true that opposition to this calamitous element of the proposal has led to a significant scaling back of the proposal.

“While the Government maintains that this will allow the targets to be met using State lands, this is, in our view, still uncertain.

“The initial target is for 30% restoration of reclaimed peatlands, of which one-third must be rewetted.

Flexibility clause

“However, that target reaches 50% by 2050 and it is far from clear that this will be achieved without some use of farmland,” he said.

McNamara added that the clause allowing for flexibility for some member states could be dependent on future governments.

“A clause does allow some deviation from this target for member states that are severely impacted, like Ireland, but this may be contingent on a future government agreeing to seek the necessary flexibilities.

“As we have seen with the nitrates directive, it is one thing thinking that flexibility will be there in the future, it is another thing delivering it when the future comes,” he said.

Habitat restoration

The ICSA president said he is also concerned about targets in the law for restoring habitats and that some of the wording in this regard is alarming.

“Again, this has its roots on a figure plucked out of the fresh air under the EU biodiversity strategy, which ignores the financial and productivity impacts.

“The target demanded for 2050 is for 90% restoration of habitats and there are three indicators - increased soil carbon, grassland butterfly index and share of land with high diversity landscape features.

“It seems ok until Annex IV is consulted, where it describes high diversity landscape features as things we have lots of in Ireland such as hedgerows, stone walls, single or groups of trees, small wetlands, etc.

“The alarming thing is that it says that such land cannot be under productive agricultural use unless such use is necessary for the preservation of biodiversity and that such lands cannot receive fertiliser or pesticide treatment except for low input treatment with solid manure.

“This potentially has profound implications for the viability of this land,” he said.


McNamara also added that no funding has been guaranteed under the law.

“It is all very well saying that funding will be available, but all that has been committed to under the nature restoration law is a report that may propose funds. This will be contingent on EU budget negotiations in the future.

“What farmers do know is that former vice-president Timmermans was dead-set against any specific funding for nature restoration until he was pulled back.

“They also understand that the CAP budget is being progressively eroded by inflation and that its value as an income support is being decimated as demands for public goods takes precedence.

“Overall, this vote drags farmers into an uncertain future and it is clear that food security and Ireland’s vital interests have taken second place to the green deal agenda of the [European] Commission.

“I have to say, I am amazed that only two Irish MEPs voted against this,” McNamara said.