A move towards simpler agri-environmental schemes would increase farmer buy in and improve biodiversity, according to director of the Burren Beo Trust and former manager of the Burren Programme, Brendan Dunford.

The results-based Burren Programme cut back farmpaperwork to a single sheet consisting of a farm map on one side and land scoring and a brief note on management advice on the other, Dunford told the RDS Finding Common Ground conference on biodiversity last week.

Dunford explained that to receive payments in the scheme, only a single farmer signature was needed by participants, as much of the scheme paperwork was outsourced to the scheme.

He maintains that keeping advice clear and accessible to farmers on what they must do to boost their annual results-based payments is vital to keep farmers in the scheme and ensure they are not disheartened by an initial low payment in year one.

“The promptness of the payment is huge for farmers. They lose trust completely when they don’t get paid when they were told they would get paid,” Dunford commented.

“I think there is a jadedness as well when it comes to CAP payments. They think it’s more hassle and they don’t push to get that then.

“We need to be absolutely focused on simplification, but we are going in the opposite direction unfortunately and that is really deterring a lot of farmers.”

The RDS conference heard calls for clarity on national land use goals from Atlantic Technological University (ATU) researcher Dr James Moran, who stated that Government departments are not all on the same page when it comes to environmental issues.

Moran said that this policy uncertainty sees farmers hearing conflicting land use messages such as “produce more food, don’t produce more food. Put up the sheep on the hills, take down the sheep from the hills. Plant it with trees, don’t plant it with trees.”