‘Pristine environment’ to net windfall for farmers

Seven hundred Burren farmers are seeking a multimillion-euro annual windfall to create a pristine environment containing rare and wild flowers.

Arising from the success of the targeted Burren Farming for Conservation Programme, the project has made an application with the Department of Agriculture to roll out the programme across the Burren in north Clare and south Galway.

Programme director Brendan Dunford said the rollout would involve 700 farmers participating across 30,000 hectares. The estimated annual cost of the scheme is €4.5m.

The programme currently covers 160 farms in the Burren, with farmers receiving €1m a year to produce the species-rich grassland.

Burren farmer Michael Davoren said: “We raise cattle to produce a pristine environment which gives me a living.”

He added: “The scheme is only four years old but already one can distinguish the farms which are in it from those which are not.”

Mr Dunford said: “The average cost of the programme is an incredibly modest €78 per hectare currently, covering 14,500 hectares of land. Importantly, the farmers co-fund the programme with an additional 25%.”

He confirmed farmers who score 10/10 on producing species-rich grassland for the growth of the rare and wild flowers can receive up to €120 per hectare. “It is a simple incentive-based system that rewards good management,” he said.

“It is like bringing an animal to the market, as the poorer the quality of the animal, the less the farmer will get.”

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