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Hill farmers face extinction with new inspections

Francis Farragher

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Simon Coveney

TWENTY two organisations covering a wide span of farming and environmental interests have written to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, warning him that land eligibility assessments now in place, will lead to rural depopulation and the ‘abandonment’ of natura lands.

The letter – signed by Colm O’Donnell of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association – and supported by 21 other organisations, warns that recent reductions in land eligibility following Dept. inspections will have disastrous concequences for places like Castledaly and Derrybrien in South Galway.

Farmers are now finding themselves in a ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ scenario as Dept. inspectors rule out thousands of acres of land for EU payments on the grounds of agricultural under-utilisation.

Back the years, farmers were forced to undergo destocking programmes because of overgrazing on the hills – now they find themselves penalised for not carrying out enough farming activity on the same lands.

“Evidence from monitoring of commonages in recent years has shown a trajectory of improvement and now is the time to build on this improvement – not abandon the extensive agricultural use of these areas on which their biodiversity, landscape character and local communities depend,” said Colm O’Donnell in an open letter to Minister Simon Coveney.

He warns that if the Dept. doesn’t row back on its current policy of imposing massive reductions in land eligibility that there will be five main consequences:

■ Widespread land abandonment.

■ Significant loss of biodiversity.

■ A negative impact on farm productivity and Ireland’s international green image.

■ It will lead to a breach of European Nature Directives.

■ It will have a severe economic and social impact on rural communities.

Mr. O’Donnell’s letter to the Minister also warns that what is even more worrying is the Department’s imminent plans to systematically interpret the eligibility rules to further reduce the reference areas on similar lands on a much wider scale.

He said that these eligibility cuts were being carried out at a time when ‘considerable flexibility’ was granted by the EU to member states to define appropriate eligibility criteria, taking into account established local practices in their region.

“There is considerable flexibility granted to member states to define appropriate eligibility criteria taking into account established local practices in their region.

“The Commission has clearly delegated to member states the flexibility to consider eligible permanent grassland which can be grazed and which forms part of established local practices where grasses and other herbaceous forage are traditionally not predominant.

“This is further clarified in Commission Guidance document DSCG/2014/33 on the Land Parcel Identification System,” Mr. O’Donnell’s letter states.

Among the organisations supporting the stance of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association are BirdWatch Ireland, several wildlife groups, farm advisers, local gaming and gun clubs and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association.

Connacht Tribune

Minister outlines ‘tough road ahead’

Francis Farragher

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Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue

A CRITICAL part of the eventual CAP deal for farmers will rest with the flexibility of the Irish Government to make its own decisions on where the money will be allocated, Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, told the Farming Tribune last week.

During a whistle-stop tour of a number of agri-related projects in Galway last Thursday, Minister McConalogue said that as things stood, the major stumbling block to an agreement was the European Parliament.

“There are really two aspects of this deal which will be of vital importance to Irish farmers over the coming years – the flexibility to make our own decisions and the percentage of the funding to be spent on ECO schemes,” said Charlie McConalogue.

He said that while some progress had been made at the end of last month’s Trilogue negotiations [EU Commission, Council and European Parliament], it had not been possible to reach an agreement.

“As things stand, what’s blocking a final agreement is the European Parliament part of that Trilogue. We are trying to reach compromises on the issue of convergence, and the ECO scheme element of the payments, but this hasn’t been possible with the parliament so far,” said the Minister.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Athenry tractor protest seeking support

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IFA President,Tim Cullinan,

GALWAY IFA are calling for a major show of strength at their tractor cavalcade in Athenry this Friday morning (11am), as part of a nationwide farmers’ rally.

Tractors, cars and jeeps have been asked to assemble at Athenry Mart on Friday (10.30am) for the planned hour-long (maximum) drive through the town.

However, the organisers have stressed that they  will be doing everything to ensure that there won’t be any undue traffic disruptions or delays caused by the protest.

“We are conscious of the fact that the Leaving Cert examinations have started this week so we will be liaising with Gardaí to make sure that we don’t impact on this.

“We are also very much aware of the Covid-19 public health situation which is why our demonstrations across the country are confined to vehicles only,” said Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell.

The Galway event will coincide with similar gatherings in county towns across the country on Friday to highlight what the IFA describe as the threats being posed to commercial farming across the country on a number of fronts.

In what will be the first large scale national demonstration by IFA  since the start of the pandemic in March, 2020, farmers will be highlighting major concerns they have over the new CAP proposals and the Climate Action Bill.

“The farming and food sector employs 300,000 people across the country and contributed €13 billion of exports in 2020.

“Towns across the county including the likes of Athenry, Loughrea, Gort, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Oughterard and Clifden, rely heavily on the rural economy to survive.

“Any reduction in activity in agriculture will hit them hard,” said Anne Mitchell.

IFA President,Tim Cullinan, met Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week, where he told him that the current direction of the CAP and the Government’s Climate Action Bill could shut down commercial farming in Ireland.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

No deal is better than a bad one

Francis Farragher

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Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue

LAST week’s ‘no deal’ result from the CAP negotiations in Brussels was a far better outcome than a ‘bad deal’, according to the IFA’s senior Connacht representative.

Pat Murphy, Connacht IFA Chair, told the Farming Tribune, that he was far happier to hear of a no-deal outcome on Friday rather than pushing through a package of proposals that could be disastrous for Irish farmers.

“The way I look at what’s being proposed is that the so-called winners in this deal will win very little while the losers will lose a lot. We need a lot more concessions to make this deal anyway positive for Irish farmers,” said Pat Murphy.

He said that in terms of the logistics of the negotiations, the three weeks before the end of June – when the Portuguese presidency of the EU comes to an end – would be very important in terms of getting compromises on key issues.

Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, said on Friday that he was disappointed that no CAP deal could be agreed last week at the Trilogue talks (EU Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament).

“The last few days have been very challenging. For its part, the Council has shown a willingness to negotiate and to seek a compromise that will allow the new CAP framework to be finalised.

“Our farmers need this, and time is running short if we are to have it in place by January 2023 – the alternative does not bear thinking about. However, we must ensure that we deliver a CAP that will have the maximum flexibility for us to make our own decisions,” said Minister McConalogue.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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