Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has moved to counter concerns from TDs over Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to farmers on peatlands.

TDs and farm organisations had raised fears that a European Council proposal on CAP cross compliance would make peat-soils ineligible for payments.

However, in a Dáil debate yesterday (Thursday, April 22), Minister McConalogue strongly insisted that the council proposal would not lead to this occurring.

The proposal which sparked concern from TDs and farm organisations revolved around the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs), specifically GAEC 2.

Minister McConalogue argued that the proposal would in fact assure famers’ payments in these areas.

According to the minister, the council’s approach has a number of benefits, including the ability to set our own standards for the GAECs.

“This approach is the best one for Irish farmers. I assure you of that,” he argued.

“The text proposed by the council…confirms that, where lands are participating in certain environmental schemes, or meeting the standards of certain GAECs, they remain eligible hectares.

“Deputies have expressed concerns that there will be a requirement to seek permission, or exemptions, for activities on designated lands, as is normal in the context of the operation of a derogation. This is simply not a part of the council text,” the minister argued.

He went on: “I want to clarify that the council text does not require anyone with these lands to apply in such a fashion to be considered as an eligible hectare. There is no provision to require a system of seeking approval from any minister or official proposed in the council text.

“The council text simply states that these areas are automatically viewed as eligible hectares. It is as straightforward as that… They are eligible hectares.”

Minister McConalogue remarked during his speech: “I hope I have explained clearly that it is not the case that the Irish national standard for GAEC 2 will prevent farmers carrying out agricultural activities.”