The FCI has reiterated its call for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to extend the current closed periods for the operation of hedge maintenance machinery on farms until March 17, 2020.
This request comes against the background of a number of weeks, where the country has experienced three-times the normal seasonal levels of rainfall.
“It is accepted that soils on many farms are saturated to the point of being waterlogged. This has brought fieldwork to a standstill especially in areas such as time-sensitive hedge management,” said FCI national chairman, Richard White in a statement.
“Management of farm hedgerows is accepted by the National Heritage Council as an essential component in the management of biodiversity,” he added.
The association said it originally wrote to the senior officers of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in January regarding the urgent need for a decision on an extension to the hedge management dates for 2020, due to the continuing wet ground conditions and the issues that this is causing for farmers and contractors.
To date, the statement added, there has been no response.
“Farm contractors across Ireland have again reported this week that ground conditions in Irish fields have further deteriorated, and field conditions for work on mechanised hedge management have been at their worst over a number of years,”
“The reason for the request for a springtime extension is to take account of changes in weather conditions and farming practices that have impacted on the ability of our farm contractor members to carry out this important work for their farmer clients within the timeframe allowed.”
The FCI is also requesting that a temporary review of the Wildlife Acts takes the impact of changed climate conditions, during the current winter months, into consideration and to allow for some flexibility in line with current and predicted weather changes.
“The current closed period deadlines are no longer practical to take account of current weather conditions and in order to allow for the safe operating of hedge management machinery when working against unrealistic deadlines.”
The association is also requesting that the current legislation ischanged to allow for the maintenance of all Irish roadside hedges and removal of all roadside trees, for public safety reasons, throughout the year and including outside of the current closed hedge management period.
It is calling for the role of local authorities be strengthened so that they can "carry out their mandate" where they have a responsibility to all road users and their safety on all public roads.