Noting that some farmers in those areas are already earning up to €7,000 per annum under Glas and Glas+, Mr Coveney has outlined a further measure currently being developed under the new locally led agri-environment schemes (LLAES) to compensate farmers for wildlife conservation initiatives.
Mr Coveney said: “I intend to introduce a further measure under the LLAES to cater for those farmers who are farming large tracts of hen harrier land.”
The minister emphasised that such farmers should join Glas, the second tranche of which has now opened to applications.
“By joining Glas now farmers in hen harrier areas are assuring themselves of benefiting from the generous payments under that scheme,” he said.
“Farmers with large tracts of hen harrier designated land will then be eligible to also apply for the new LLAES measure when it is up and running.”
If all farmers with hen harrier land applied, this would exceed €23m per annum for hen harrier actions under Glas schemes.
The old Farmland Birds Scheme paid out around €3.5m per annum for all farmland birds.
Mr Gray said that while ICSA has been campaigning for a locally led hen harrier scheme, ICSA is pleased with the progress, but adds that there are still significant hurdles to be overcome.
“The difficulty is that hen harrier designations are dispersed over several regions,” said Mr Gray.
“Farmers with hen harrier designations in Laois have no prospect of being part of the same scheme as farmers in Limerick or Cork. Several schemes are required and each scheme will need appropriate expertise to assist farmers in drafting plans.
“I am concerned about the length of time it will take to get the schemes approved as farmers will have a long time to wait before they see any money.
"The treatment of hen harrier farmers over the last few years has been a disgrace, we are prepared to give this process a chance but we are not accepting that this is the only solution.”