The team within the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) that is responsible for representing its members on designated lands has called for more funding for affected farmers.

The IFA SAC (special area of conservation) Project Team recently met to agree the priority areas it will focus on for the farmers impacted by designations in Ireland.

The project team consists of representative farmers from the various SACs, special protected areas (SPAs) and natural heritage areas (NHAs), with new members appointed by the IFA National Officer Committee.

Commenting on the work of the project team, its chairperson Pat Murphy said this morning (Wednesday, November 30) that “13.6% of the land in Ireland is designated as either SCA, SPA or NHA”.

“While we acknowledge the role that designation plays in the protection of biodiversity and habitat loss, it is those who manage and upkeep these areas, the farmers and landowners, who ultimately pay the price,” Murphy remarked.

He added: “The project team will seek an appropriate compensation scheme [to be] put in place to ensure farmers impacted by the designations are properly compensated for the farming restrictions placed on them and to account for loss of earnings and the devaluation of land.”

Other key focus areas for the group in the coming months include the implementation of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Farm Plan Scheme, with members of the team intending to engage with NPWS representatives in the coming weeks.

“It’s expected that 360 farm plans will be up and running by the end of the year.

“However, greater funding is needed to expand the numbers in the scheme, with increased payment rates to reflect the additional costs and burden on farmers whose land is designated,” Murphy added.

He called for an enhanced Farm Plan Scheme to be funded through the national exchequer, and for all farmers who apply for the scheme to be catered for.

“Farmers should not have to suffer income loss imposed by designations without proper compensation,” Murphy said.