The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that the long-awaited final report on the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry, and an accompanying action plan, will not work for the sector.

The farming body is now calling for the publication to be “scrapped” and “re-evaluated”.

The report is the result of work carried out by a working group established following a series of High Court decisions which determined that large-scale peat harvesting requires planning permission and licensing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The working group was set up by Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan to explore this issue further .

The report, entitled Review of the use of Peat Moss in Horticulture has been completed for a number of months and there had been repeated calls for it to be published. That happened today, along with the publication of an action plan.

But, according to the IFA, the report does not stress the urgency of the situation and is not workable.

From an initial review, the IFA said in a statement, it appears that the recommendations set out in the final report are contrary to the action plan points.

IFA horticulture chair, Paul Brophy said the plan will do nothing other than lead to the demise of the sector.

“It doesn’t indicate how the current producers of the key raw material can become fully compliant and continue to service the industry needs. The IFA is calling for it to be scrapped and re-evaluated immediately.

The report sets out clearly that the dual consent process for peat harvesting must be reformed.

A number of recommendations allude to this, specifically, recommendation four which outlines that Irish peat should be available over the short-term in sufficient quantities from existing bogs that were prepared for harvesting for the last few years and are lying fallow, provided amendments are made to the current legislative provisions for large scale peat extraction.

This is absolutely critical for the professional horticulture sector ahead of the 2022 season, the IFA said.

However, the action plan contradicts the this, according to the IFA, by stating “legislative changes to the consent system do not present a realistic short- or medium-term solution to the difficulties facing the horticulture industry in the immediate term. Therefore, the dual consent system is being retained”.

“It’s clear that various party politics are at play here. Irish growers cannot sustain any more of these shortcomings,” said Brophy.

He contnued:

“The action plan details that a stockpile of 2,000 tonnes of peat from Bord na Móna may be available to alleviate the short-term problem.

“It must be noted that the quality of this peat is unknown. Growers require specific blends based on their operation and there is no certainty that peat from Bord na Móna will be suitable.

“Also, this peat will not service the mushroom industry as fresh excavate is required. This amount of peat would also only be sufficient for approximately two months in the peak season.”

He said the action plan will cause Irish growers to become dependent on imported peat, which will be catastrophic for the green credentials of the industry.

“It’s completely unfit for purpose. If anything, it will exacerbate the problems facing Irish growers, instead of addressing them,” he said.