Designated land aid on the way

The Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) has welcomed progress in supporting farmers in designated hen harriers areas.

This follows Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney’s announcement of a new measure being developed in the new Locally-Led Agri Environment Schemes (LLAES) — in addition to priority access to GLAS, in which these farmers can earn up to €7,000 per annum.

“I intend to introduce a further measure under the Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme to cater for those farmers who are farming large tracts of hen harrier land,” said the Minister.

“By joining GLAS now, farmers in hen harrier areas are assuring themselves of benefiting from the generous payments under that scheme. 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.”

The new LLAES will be in Ireland’s application to the EU next spring for a rural development programme amendment. The new LLAES will include provision for expanding the Burren conservation scheme, and freshwater pearl mussel actions, in addition to the new hen-harrier measure. Possibilities for early introduction of an upland peats measure are also being examined.

IFDL chairman Liam O’Keeffe said success of the LLAES will obviously hinge on achieving a successful habitat for the hen harrier while simultaneously allowing the farmer to derive a viable income from designated land which is being farmed.

He said the minister’s commitment to quickly bring clarity about where afforestation planting is possible, and to avoid forestry restrictions that are environmentally unnecessary, was particularly welcome.

IFDL has highlighted how designation of 169,000 hectares for hen-harrier protection — in compliance with the EU’s birds directive — has ended up dramatically devaluing the land of about 4,000 farmers.

They gained the support this year of the Oireachtas joint committee for agriculture, food and the marine, which called on the Government for a practical and common sense solution.


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