Farm organisations will further discuss concerns in relation to the proposed EU Nature Restoration Law and its impacts on Irish farmers before the agriculture committee today (Wednesday, October 19).

Under proposed regulation, member states will be required to develop a national restoration plan and identify measures that together cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea area by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Based on statements provided to the committee, farm organisations agree that engagement with farmers must take place before any nature restoration targets can be introduced.

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine will meet in committee room three of Leinster House at 5:30p.m today, and can be viewed live on Oireachtas TV.

Representatives of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA); the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA); and Macra will speak at the meeting.

Nature Restoration Law

IFA environment chair Paul O’Brien is expected to address the committee meeting and emphasise the need for funding from outside the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Previous calls for full compensation for farmers financially affected by measures introduced under the regulation, as well as the consideration of farmers’ property rights are expected to be reiterated by the present farm representatives.

The proposal contains legally binding targets specific for agricultural ecosystems which aim to increase the following:

  • Grassland butterflies and farmland birds;
  • Stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soils;
  • The share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features; and to
  • Restore drained peatlands under agricultural use.

The regulation sets targets to restore 30% of drained peatlands to satisfactory levels by 2030 (including rewetting of 7.5%); 50% by 2040 (including rewetting of 25%); and 70% by 2050 (including rewetting of 35%), the IFA said.

Using a Teagasc estimate of 450,000ha of drained peatland under agriculture use, over 135,000ha would need to be restored to satisfactory levels, including the rewetting of 34,000ha by 2030, according to an IFA statement.

“This would increase to over 315,000ha (equivalent to 7% of Ireland’s utilisable agricultural area) to be restored to satisfactory levels, of which approximately 157,500ha will require to be rewetted by 2050,” the statement continued.

Veterinary medicinal products and fertiliser bill

The IFA, the ICMSA, the ICSA and Macra will also engage in the continued pre-legislative scrutiny of the Veterinary Medicinal Products Medicated Feed and Fertilisers Regulation Bill 2022 from 7:00p.m today.

The bill provides for a National Veterinary Prescription System (NVPS) and a National Fertiliser Database which captures and processes information on the import, sale and use of fertiliser in Ireland.

In a statement to the committee, the IFA said it firmly believes that it is unfair and unreasonable to consider farmers as fertiliser importers because they source or pay for fertiliser in Northern Ireland or in the UK.

“There must be flexibility and ease of use in the database for fertiliser economic operators in Northern Ireland to sell and transfer fertiliser products to professional users in the Republic of Ireland.

“Farmers who choose to purchase fertiliser from suppliers in Northern Ireland must not be unfairly disadvantaged for doing so,” said IFA animal health chair, TJ Maher.