Land devaluation to feature in Oireachtas Ag Committee meeting

Land devaluation will be the key issue for the Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) when the group goes before the Joint Committee on Agriculture later today (Tuesday, January 30).

Speaking to AgriLand ahead of the meeting, IFDL chairman Jason Fitzgerald said that land devaluation has had a major negative impact on farmers with designated areas.

He noted that farmers have been seeking proper compensation for the past 10 years, with their land rendered “virtually useless” by stringent regulations.

Farmers are “imprisoned” on their land; they can’t sell it and it provides a very poor income, the chairman said.

The land itself is very valuable environmentally – as carbon sinks, wildlife habitats and hubs of biodiversity – but, this is not being recognised economically. Farmers need to be reimbursed for their lost economic opportunities through the strengthening and tightening of environmental regulations, it was stressed.

Other issues to be highlighted by the farmers’ group today will be the current Hen Harrier Scheme structure. A proper scheme is needed, Fitzgerald stressed, that pays €370/ha to participating farmers.

Also Read: 700 expressions of interest in hen harrier scheme but structure criticised by farmers

Forestry is another big issue, with farmers prevented from planting on protected land.

“We won’t be holding back; we’ve already been before the Oireachtas twice previously,” Fitzgerald said. “We will be putting several suggested measures before the committee. These are not costly, but would have a big effect.”

Fitzgerald said that the affected farmers wish to be acknowledged and something needs to be done.

A number of active group members have been fighting for compensation for the past five or six years, and the turmoil has nearly broken them mentally, the chairman said.

“When they got the land from their parents, they were free to do what they liked with it. This has all changed dramatically. Something has to be done, if even for their peace of mind,” Fitzgerald said.

It had previously been agreed that farmers with designated zones would be remunerated the balance between their incomes before and after designation, but this never happened, he added.

As things stand, the issue is destroying farming families and communities, the chairman asserted. Farmers in counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Tipperary are all being affected by the lack of economic sustainability.

“We’re currently not being recognised; all we want is a level playing field for our farmers,” he concluded.