The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has said it is “leaving the door open” to legally challenge the Nature Restoration Law if it is passed.

INHFA president Vincent Roddy said the organisation has engaged “at every level on this” and has now written to all three EU institutions - the Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers - outlining its position on the law.

Roddy said that, in doing this, the organisation is informing them “that the INHFA acting on behalf of our members do not consent to the Nature Restoration Law targets being obligatory on our farmed habitats”.

He added that the INHFA is “leaving the option open for a possible legal challenge by either the INHFA or an INHFA member should this law be passed”.

Although there have been clarifications around the law, that the rewetting targets will be voluntary for farmers, Roddy said the INHFA still has great concerns around article four.

“The fact that the supporters of this law continue to side-step [concerns] illustrates that either they don’t understand the law, or, of greater concern, they fully understand this and hope by getting it through they will get to decide what happens on over one million hectares of land currently owned by farmers,” he said.

‘Act of desperation’

These comments come in response to a letter led by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, which was signed by 10 other member states.

It was sent to the remaining 16 EU countries earlier this week urging them to adopt the Nature Restoration Law at an upcoming vote on 17 June.

The INHFA said this move by Minister Ryan was “an act of desperation”.

Roddy said the minister needed to “acknowledge the concern there is around this law, both in Ireland and across Europe, and go back to the drawing board, instead of trying to bulldoze this through”.

In addition, Roddy called on Minister Ryan and Minister of State for nature Malcolm Noonan - who co-drafted the letter - to retract their support for the law.

“[We must] learn from the implementation of the habitats directive which hasn’t only failed the farmer, it has also failed in its conservation objectives.

“This law, if passed, will be equally problematic,” he said.