New Land Eligibility Inspections cause for alarm – INHFA
With the news of New Land Eligibility inspections to take place The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers have expressed alarm regarding proposals to target hill and commonage areas.
The organisation recently sent a letter to Minister Creed, and all the oireachtas members, and called for proper engagement and clarification in relation to uplands management and its habitats. The letter also carried the threat that the organisation might make a formal complaint to the EU Commission as they believe the State could end up breaching the Birds & Habitats Directives.
National Chair, Vincent Roddy, discussed how these new inspections could see large areas of land made ineligible for payments due to a change in interpretation of EU regulations on land eligibility.
If these inspections are carried out he stated that “we will not just see a significant loss of income to farmers but it will also adversely affect the many Natura 2000 (SAC & SPA) habitats.”
The organisation also discussed the possible destruction of habitats, believing these inspections could lead to a significant loss of biodiversity, Affect farm productivity and Ireland’s international green image, Threaten widespread land abandonment, Have devastating economic and social impacts on rural communities.
Mr Roddy also stated that “a considerable amount of hill and commonage lands are designated Natura 2000 habitats or subject to these habitat directives. Resulting from this, farmers are required to get permission for 39 different actions which farmers on non-Natura sites are not subject too.”
He continued by stating that these new requirements are restricting farmers, he added “these requirements have restricted their farming activity and ability to deliver a profit from these lands. Unfortunately these facts appear to be ignored by the department who, seem intent of penalising farmers through a flawed interpretation of EU directives on eligible land, with no regard to habitat conservation.”
He reiterated his point by again explaining that “farmers could now be faced with a dilemma – do they continue to farm within the habitat directives and see their land become ineligible or do they ignore the habitat directives by altering the land composition and vegetation in order to ensure it remains eligible for payments.”
Mr. Roddy concluded by stating “the department have flexibility in how they apply EU regulations and there is enough flexibility in EU regulation 1307 2013 Article 4(1)h to ensure these lands remain eligible for payments”.