INHFA: Carbon-rich soils cannot become a CAP designation

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is insisting that the protection of wetlands and peatlands cannot become another designation under the reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The protection of these ‘carbon-rich soils’ puts “major restrictions” on farmers for no extra income, according to the association’s spokesperson Gerry Loftus.

Speaking at an INHFA meeting last Friday (February 22) Loftus argued that land designations remain a thorny issue for farmers.

The meeting was entitled ‘Current Challenges and the Future of the Family Farm’, and was held in Carrick-On-Shannon in Co. Leitrim.

Loftus said that past designations have “seen major restrictions on these lands, with permission required for matters such as fencing, draining, changing the type of stock or stocking levels, mulching, topping and much more”.

He also pointed out that farmers must comply with these measures, without any extra income to offset the costs.

The proposal to bring in protections for wetlands and peatlands will, warned Loftus, “impose major restrictions and further compliance measures on many of our farmers for no extra income, and is not acceptable as a Pillar 1 measure”.

[This proposal] would also undermine any payment under the Eco Scheme and any Agri-environment scheme in Pillar 2.

He argued that, despite farmers having “pristine habitats” that were important to animal and plant life, they were being “sold out”.

“The designations undermined their farming activity and left them vulnerable under land eligibility inspections,” claimed Loftus.

Concluding his remarks at the meeting, Loftus said that a system was needed that would reward, rather than punish farmers; a system, he said, that would have to extend beyond the lifetime of the next CAP.

“These designations need to be addressed and cannot be allowed to happen on these carbon-rich soils which are critically important, especially for carbon sequestration,” he said.