The proposed EU Nature Restoration Law will have a major impact for farming and the wider rural economy, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

Speaking ahead of the association’s address to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, president of the association, Vincent Roddy stressed the need for legislators to work together in opposing the regulation.

He stated:

“The proposed regulation will, if implemented in its current form, sterilise many family farms and undermine our rural economy.”

Vincent Roddy noted that in the last week “we have seen how current regulation around the climate change bill and the Birds and Habitats Directives have derailed the Galway city by-pass and vital flood relief works on the N59 in Connemara”.

“This comes on the back of stalled flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh in Roscommon due to another objection under the Birds and Habitats Directives,” he added.

The INHFA president maintained that there is “an urgent need to reassess existing regulations” before the implementation of the Nature Restoration Law, which he said would become the ultimate ‘crank’s charter’.

EU Nature Restoration Law

A major issue of concern for the INHFA in the proposed regulation is Article 16, which centres on the right to justice.

Article 16 of the regulation states: “Member states shall ensure that members of the public, in accordance with national law, that have a sufficient interest or that maintain the impairment of a right, have access to a review procedure before a court of law, or an independent and impartial body established by law, to challenge the substantive or procedural legality of the national restoration plans and any failures to act of the competent authorities, regardless of the role members of the public have played during the process for preparing and establishing the national restoration plan.

“Any non-governmental organisation [NGO] promoting environmental protection and meeting any requirements under national law shall be deemed to have rights capable of being impaired and their interest shall be deemed sufficient.”

In relation to the detail outlined above, Roddy said: “This Article [16] will give non-governmental organisations (NGOs) promoting environmental protection, such as An Taisce, the opportunity to object to any actions taken and actions not taken, that are deemed necessary to deliver on restoration targets.

“Such required actions will include the rewetting of farmed peatlands.

“Based on the current process, these objections won’t see the NGO taking the farmer to court, but will see the NGO taking the state to court for not enforcing the regulation.”

The hill farmers’ representative said that the state would then have to act against the farmer or individual and enforce sanctions that could see the withdrawal of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments or court proceedings.

“It is vital that any such regulation is fair and not open to abuse,” Roddy added.

“What we currently have is, I believe, being abused and it is vital that our legislators address this before we make a bad situation intolerable.”