Hill farmers welcome wool feasibility study but urge action on insulation

The Budget 2021 announcement of a feasibility study for wool has been welcomed by the farm organisation that represents hill farmers.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) said today (Tuesday, October 20) that the €100,000 allocation for the study can “help assess various options and is a first step in what we hope will be a new dawn”.

However, Pheilim Molloy, the association’s National Council representative for Co. Donegal, highlighted that, in the meantime, there is an “immediate option” for Irish wool that the government can influence: That of building insulation material.

Molly argued that the prioritisation of older houses and public buildings in a new retrofit scheme is “an opportunity for the state to prioritise the use of wool as an insulation material”.

“Wool, due to its crimped nature, is an excellent insulation material that, in addition to being a natural fibre, is also one of the safest materials in terms of fire and smoke hazards,” the INHFA representative said.

He continued: “With a total of €268.5 million committed in this year’s budget to retrofit activity, we have an ideal opportunity to add value to a natural Irish product while addressing energy and climate change concerns.

Molloy stressed the need for inter-department co-operation to quantify what level of insulation will be required and how much of this can be delivered through wool.

“There is a golden opportunity here that I hope our government and its various departments will grasp,” he concluded.

GLAS roll-over

Speaking the day after the budget announcement last week (October 14), the INHFA president Colm O’Donnell gave a “cautious welcome” for the budgetary proposals for agriculture, saying “the announcement of an additional €179 million for agriculture can provide a significant boost for the sector provided this money gets into farmers’ pockets”.

In particular, he welcomed the roll-over of schemes provided for in the funding, especially the Green, Low-carbon, Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS).

“It will provide a level of certainty for the 25,000 farmers in the final year of their contracts,” O’Donnell stated, although warning that clarity would be needed “with regard to possible penalties if a farmer is deemed to have breached their contract in the rollover year”.