INHFA president highlights ‘flawed’ designations policy to minister

The AGM of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) was held last Friday (November 27) over an online platform, with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue in attendance.

INHFA president Colm O’Donnell took the opportunity to “caution against” the prospect of more land designations, and he also told the minister that the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “must not discriminate against farmers on environmentally sensitive lands”.

In his closing address, O’Donnell argued that the designation process was “flawed”, adding that the INHFA is “for biodiversity but firmly against more EU land designations”.

The EU nature directives have failed over the last twenty years for everyone, and in particular farmers. Unfortunately the principle objectives in the proposed EU Biodiversity Strategy appears to suggest more of the same.

He called on the minister for engage with other departments, particularly on the areas of environment and heritage, to develop a “united front” to protect farmers on “environmentally sensitive areas”.

In terms of the transition to the next CAP, O’Donnell welcomed what he said was the minister’s “commitment” to s smooth transition.

In the course of the AGM, Minister McConalogue confirmed that any penalty a farmer incurred in the rollover year of the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) will only apply to that year.

On the Sheep Welfare Scheme, the minister said that flexibility on sheep numbers may be considered, but on a case-by-case basis.

On the issue of CAP Pillar I payment convergence, the INHFA president told the minister that the European Commission has given “sufficient flexibility” to member states to continue with internal redistribution of farm payments through the transition.

The minister told the INHFA members that he would engage with the association on two of their proposals: one on the wool sector; and another to plant 10 million native Irish trees for the centenary of the state.

Minister McConalogue also noted that “95%” of a trade deal between the EU and UK has been agreed, but even with a deal, there will remain challenges to trade.

O’Donnell told the minister, in response to this point, that any contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit “must include compensation funding for primary producers”.

The INHFA AGM was also addressed by Prof. Alice Stanton, of Devenish Nutrition and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, who gave a presentation on ‘Animal-sourced foods and human health’.

The presentation outlined that replacing fresh meat and dairy with additive-rich processed foods so as to offset greenhouse gas emissions is “very likely to harm human health”.

Prof. Stanton told the AGM that the “better solution” is to “optimise both the nutritional quality of fresh food and sustainable agricultural practices”.