New INHFA president: Long-term deal a ‘major priority’

Colm O’Donnell from Sligo was elected as the first National President of the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) on Tuesday, June 20, at the organisation’s AGM.

Micheal McDonnell was elected as National Secretary, while Brendan O’Malley became the new treasurer and Siobhan Ward took on the role of PRO.

The association also accepted a new constitution in which the position of National Chair was changed to National President.

O’Donnell spoke of his delight at being elected and emphasised the need for a group to represent farmers with hill and designated land. He explained that this need is more critical than ever, particularly in light of heading into new CAP negotiations while also dealing with the challenges of Brexit.

O’Donnell noted the need of several organisation members for a CAP deal post-2020 that recognises the challenges they face due to habitat conservation. He described such a deal as “a major priority”.

The president highlighted the fact that farmers on designated lands must seek permission to carry out 39 actions that are not required of other farmers. This, he said, reduces earning potential and adds additional costs – both of which have to be compensated.

Brendan O’Malley, treasurer; Colm O’Donnell president; Micheal McDonnell, secretary; Siobhan Ward, PRO

O’Donnell outlined a list of other priorities that would have to be tackled. He noted that a key priority is the establishment of an independent appeals board, with a full review and the reinstatement of payments for any farmers who lost out under all department inspections that did not have a control report.

Another priority mentioned is to ensure that the Farmers’ Charter of Rights becomes part of the terms and conditions for all schemes. This would make sure farmers receive their payments when due, unlike what happened with GLAS.

Clarity on the inspection process, particularly for farmers on hill and commonage lands, is also a priority for O’Donnell.

The president concluded by underlining the inequities in payment rates of the ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) scheme. He stated that the scheme does not reflect the land constraint and “will need to be addressed in next year’s review”.

For the present, he added: “The €25 million increase in this coming year’s scheme should be targeted at hill type land.”