Over 700 farmers attend official launch of Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association

hill farmers
Farmers and public representatives, at the National launch of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association meeting in Westport. Photo; Frank Dolan.

Over 700 farmers attended the official launch of the Irish Natural and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) last Friday night in Westport.

Although in existence for over a year, the Association held its official launch last week and was joined by MEPs Marian Harkin, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Matt Carthy, along with local politicians. The Association now has over 3,000 members, stretching across the country and will be opening an office in Tubbercurry in the coming weeks.

Speaking at the event INHFA Chairman Vincent Roddy expressed his delight with the turnout of almost 800 farmers and outlined how the organisers decided on the novel idea of getting children involved in the launch.

“The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association was set up to ensure our way of life is protected so future generations can also experience it.”

National Vice Chair Henry O Donnell said the Association was set up when farmers with marginal land realised that their issues are the issues of a large number of farmers nationwide and were not being adequately addressed.

Natura Chair Seanie Boyle condemned the lack of consultation in designating and managing sites stating that “our footprint and DNA is all over these lands yet we were not consulted”.

Fianna Fail spokesperson on Agriculture Eamon O Cuiv said the Association should now be recognised as a consultative body, similar to other farming bodies, as it is clear it has a strong mandate.

Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association CAP Chair Colm O Donnell highlighted concerns with the departments narrow interpretation of land eligibility guidelines stating that “we hope to make progress on this in upcoming meetings with the department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service”.

The blatant disregard for the Farmers Charter of Rights was also highlighted by National Chair Vincent Roddy who said there was complete lack of accountability by the Department of Agriculture.

He suggested that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture should have a role here while also calling for a transparent Appeals System independent of the Department of Agriculture.

Brendan Joyce Livestock Chair said there is a real need for direct supports in both the beef and sheep sectors and said the INHFA is “looking to have payment restored on sheep with a top-up on the hill ewe to equate to at least €30”.

He also said, in relation to the Beef Dat and Genomics Programme, the association is calling for this scheme to be reopened for farmers that may find it more workable due to recent changes.