Following a meeting with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, the president of ICMSA, John Comer, has expressed serious concerns that a lack of funding in the NPWS will result in a “draining away” of funds from the new Agri-Environment Scheme, GLAS.
Mr Comer stated that it is essential farmers whose land is designated are adequately compensated but he believes that additional funding must be provided by the NPWS - as was the case under Schemes such as the Farm Plan Scheme.
He continued to say that it is unacceptable to expect the new GLAS to cater for the needs of all farmers, particularly given the restriction on the budget for this Scheme.
“Designated land has particular requirements and, in general, the management of Schemes on this land must be provided by the Department with the expertise,” he said.
“By the end of this year there will be approximately 34,000 farmers out of REPS who will be looking at the new GLAS - which will be available as part of the new RDP - to allow them to participate in an agri-environment scheme. Many of these farmers have been in REPS since it’s inception and are committed to environmentally friendly farming practices. These farmers must be given an equal opportunity to participate in the new Scheme,” said Mr Comer.
The ICMSA delegation also discussed the issue of remedial work in Designated Areas as a result of recent storm damage and the need for better communication between the relevant authorities and farmers. Many family homes, businesses and farmland have been severely damaged during the recent storms and resultant flooding experienced but the farm delegation stressed that flooding is an ongoing issue in certain parts of the country; particularly along major rivers.
The ICMSA delegation set out the need for a single National Waterways Authority that would take over responsibility for the oversight and maintenance of the state’s internal waterways and designated stretches of coastline.
“Currently, there is a plethora of agencies and bodies all sharing responsibility for the oversight and maintenance of our waterways and coastlines with resultant confusion about who’s doing what – or, in very many cases - who’s not doing what,” noted the ICMSA president.
The lack of action regarding the management of Deer in Wicklow is an issue which ICMSA has been in contact with the Department for a long time, and Mr. Comer welcomed confirmation by Minister Deenihan that his Department is about to put a policy in place.
However, he stated that immediate action is required because far too long has been spent talking about the problem as opposed to actually dealing with it.
Other items raised were burning and hedge cutting dates, designated bogs and ravens in west Kerry.