It was confirmed today that payments under the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP) have commenced issuing to farmers. This is according to a statement released this afternoon by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

This is a fourth year of the payment of aid under this agri-environmental programme from unused Single Farm Payment funds. Minister Coveney said “I am delighted to confirm the issuing of payments totalling €986,000 to 157 farmers under the BFCP to support high environmental value farming in the Burren which is one of Ireland’s outstanding landscapes and is known worldwide. This brings the allocation to participating famers by my Department over the four years of the Scheme to over €3.8 million’’.

Minister Coveney noted that the BFCP has generated significant environmental benefits for the Burren over its first four years. These included a major shift away from the feeding of silage to ration-based feeding systems, leading to improvements in the condition of grasslands and natural water sources. Over 67,000 metres of stone walls have been repaired while 180 hectares of invasive scrub has been removed – mainly by hand – from rare, species- rich grasslands and ancient monuments. Almost 100 km of paths have been reopened enabling livestock access to under-grazed grasslands which can then be restored. Hundreds of water supplies have been protected by installing new tanks, troughs and pumps, resulting in improved water quality in this very sensitive karst landscape.

The culmination of these works has been a measurable improvement in the state of the Burren’s environment, which in turn supports the region’s growing tourism industry. The Minister also noted that farmer satisfaction levels with the award-winning programme are extremely high (>90%) and the programme guarantees high value for money to the taxpayer.

Minister Coveney emphasised that ‘in the particularly tough financial climate it is essential that funding is focused on programmes delivering, identifiable and verifiable agri- environmental measures. Without doubt the BFCP guarantees excellent value for money – farmers are paid on the basis of work done and outputs generated and all works are co-financed by the farmer – and are improving the biodiversity, water quality, cultural and landscape attributes on almost 13,000 hectares of Ireland’s flagship heritage landscape, the Burren’.

Finally the Minister confirmed that he had provided a further €1 million for the continuation of the Programme in 2014.