The Department of Agriculture’s failure to give final clearance for non-productive investments (NPIs) is seriously delaying work at farm level and potentially denying farmers the ability to draw down funds.

The INHFA has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue to provide “immediate clarity” around the clearance delays for NPIs.

“Last autumn farmers in the co-operation stream applied to carry out specific actions under these NPIs, but are still awaiting final permission from the Department,” said INHFA president Vincent Roddy.

“These NPIs are designed to help improve the habitat scores and the fact that farmers still haven’t been given the go-ahead is totally unacceptable,” Roddy added.

Farmers can complete over 90 actions to qualify for NPI payments of €3,500 per applicant, per year under headings such as habitat and wildlife support, and infrastructure.

These include works involving stone wall maintenance, the installation bird boxes for species such as the swallow and swift, bracken trimming, hedgerow establishment and maintenance, and planting woodland.

It is estimated that around 4,500 ACRES farmers are awaiting clearance for NPIs.

The INHFA leader stressed the need for action from Minister McConalogue to enable works on the NPIs to start.

“Many of these farmers were expecting to get the go-ahead this spring or early summer, with some farmers having contractors booked so they could get the work completed as soon as possible,” Roddy said.

“It is our understanding that the confirmation on these NPIs may not come until September, which will create problems as some of the NPIs are weather dependent, while the completion of others will depend on contractor availability,” he added.

Roddy also said some farmers are still awaiting scores for commonage and private lands, although many of the properties were scored last summer.

He described the delay as “shocking”.