The Impact of Land Designations Must Be Recognized – Mayo IFA
EXISTING payment agreements and CAP strategic plan proposals for designated lands are inadequate because they do not address the fundamental problem of loss of revenue and devaluation of land values, says Pat Chambers, President of the Hill Mayo IFA.
“Restrictions due to designations are responsible for the loss of revenue. They impose additional costs on farmers and in many cases can make it difficult to meet cross-compliance requirements,” he said.
At a meeting of the Designated Areas Oversight Committee, which was attended by Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan, Mr Chambers said the reintroduction of the NPWS farm plan scheme was a positive first step.
“However, more funding is needed to increase the number of farm plans on the program, with increased payment rates to reflect the additional costs and burden on farmers whose land is designated. An improved farm plan program must be funded by the public purse and must meet the needs of all farmers with designations who apply,” he said.
The IFA calls for the introduction of an independent arbitration system to determine the loss of value or business impact caused by designations and a budget must be in place to cover the associated costs.
There are 38 activities requiring consent (ARC) associated with designations, ranging from reclamation and drainage works, to topping or brushing and reseeding. These ARCs impose additional costs and unnecessary bureaucracy on the 35,000 farmers affected by the designations.
Mr Chambers said there is confusion among departments as to who actually grants authorization for ARCs carried out in designated areas.
“A one-stop-shop structure must be put in place to handle these calls, ensure fair play for farmers and minimize delays. Requests would be made to one agency, with other relevant agencies feeding into it, and there must be a set period of time within which a farmer must receive a response,” he commented.
The IFA has always stated that where Natura designations are imposed under the EU Habitats or Birds Directive, farmers and landowners must be properly compensated and have made it very clear that where designations currently exist, the compensation in place is insufficient.