Rewetting of drained peatlands will be voluntary for farmers under the proposed Nature Restoration Law, Irish MEP Mick Wallace has said.

The EU Council and EU Parliament reached provisional political agreement recently on the controversial law, which was first proposed by the EU Commission in June 2022.

The law aims to put measures in place to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

It will set specific, legally binding targets and obligations for nature restoration in each of the listed ecosystems — from agricultural land and forests to marine, freshwater and urban ecosystems.

The deal still has to be endorsed and formally adopted by the parliament and council, after which the new law will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.

Once this happens, all EU member states will then be required to draft their own national nature restoration plans.


The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has claimed that the strong view from the EU Parliament committees and plenary sessions has been “sidelined in favour of the EU Commission’s original proposals”.

“While the targets for rewetting are not as onerous as the original EU Commission proposal at a member state level, the fact remains that many farmers are horrified at the potential implications if they are forced to rewet land or the knock-on impact of adjoining land, in state or other ownership being rewetted,” Dermot Kelleher, ICSA president, said.

However, Independent Ireland South MEP Mick Wallace, who was among the seven EU Parliament negotiators on the proposed regulation, has said that “no farmer can be forced to rewet under the regulation, as agreed in trilogue”. 

“The text of provisional agreement between the European Parliament and Council on the Nature Restoration Law makes it absolutely clear that rewetting of agriculturally drained peatlands will be voluntary for farmers and private landowners.

“It specifically states that rewetting on agricultural land remains voluntary under this regulation. I don’t know how this could be any clearer,” he said.

MEP Wallace added that no land can be acquired by Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) under the regulation.

“It’s there in black and white in the text of the provisional agreement and I would urge Mr Kelleher and other farm organisation leaders to read it.

“Not only that, but the regulation now creates a legal obligation for member states to actually make rewetting an attractive option for farmers and landowners,” he said.

Wallace said that both of these points in the revised text originated with his team.

“We pushed for this wording and we got what we wanted. If we have any hope of meeting out climate targets we have to rewet peatlands.

“But farmers need to be incentivised to do so, they need to be rewarded, and well paid for it,” the Ireland South MEP added.