Hill farmers launch General Election proposals

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has released a list of General Election proposals, becoming one of the last major farm organisation to do so.

The main stand out point is full convergence during the transition period of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as well as a uniform payment in eco-schemes in the next round of the policy.

The association is also calling for a scheme similar to the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) that would offer a payment of up to €12,000, with an average payment of €7,000.

The INHFA is also seeking a suckler cow welfare scheme accessible to all suckler farmers, delivering €200 on the first 10 cows and a digressive payment thereafter, with payment based on specific welfare measures.

On the Sheep Welfare Scheme, the association is looking for a commitment to double its budget from €25 million per year to €50 million per year.

The INHFA is recommending a transition payment for older farmers seeking to retire, available from the age of 60, to facilitate generational renewal.

Regarding knowledge transfer schemes, the group is calling for the scheme to be “completely overhauled”, so that funds are directed towards farmers who are “prepared to share experience, rather than facilitators who organise meetings”.

On land designations, the INHFA is proposing the following steps:

  • That payment supports from CAP and the national exchequer be used to offset farmer costs of land designations;
  • A payment for protection of carbon rich soils and carbon sequestration;
  • Incorporating “positive metrics” that farmers on designated and hill lands bring, as regards water quality, carbon storage, biodiversity and the ecosystem.

As a farm business support measure, the INHFA is recommending the piloting of 500 places for a universal basic income as an option for farmers currently on Farm Assist, and an increase in places (1,000) for the Rural Social Scheme.

The association claims that the current requirements under Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) agricultural retirement relief is discriminatory against part-time farmers, and “creates a poverty trap”. The INHFA proposes the abolition of the requirements on younger farmers or new entrants taking over a farm.

On forestry, the group is calling for the suspension of all state supports for the current forestry model, pending a “full review of its impact and suitability”. The INHFA is also recommending an increase in the number of years for which agroforestry payments are made, from five years to 20, with an increased rate of €660 for the first five years.

The INHFA is also arguing for the establishment of ‘smart villages’ – rural communities that use a broad, combined farming/community approach to improve economic resilience.

Finally, the association is calling for a marketing fund of €10 million for Irish suckler beef, and for protected geographic indication (PGI) status for the product.