IFA president John Bryan has called for strong financial support from the Government for Hill Areas in the 2014–2020 Rural Development Plan. He said this could be done through a meaningful Upland Agri-Environment Scheme and increased support under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.
Speaking at the IFA Hill Forum in Tuam, Mr Bryan said that farm incomes in hill areas were in a very difficult position as a result of cutbacks to environmental schemes, reductions in the Disadvantaged Areas payments and low market returns for hill lamb.
He referred to one sheep farmer he met at the National Ploughing Championships whose income has dropped by up to 60 per cent as a consequence of losing REPS and cuts to the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. This farmer’s situation is reflective of hill farmers in every part of the country.
“On top of this, farmers in hill areas have been under severe environmental restriction as a result of Commonage Framework Plans introduced over 10 years ago. These plans curtailed production and have added to the income crisis,” he said.
It would be discriminatory against hill farmers and Minister Coveney must take this into account, as well as not introducing regionalisation in the implementation of the new CAP regime.
He said that farmers in hill areas were particularly concerned where eligible areas had been reduced following Department inspections.