Pressure on the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan to address fears over Ireland’s rewetting plans increases as farmers voice their concerns.

Farmers are “left in limbo” as they have not been provided with written assurances by Bord na Móna that the rewetting of 33,000ha in over 80 bogs will not flood adjacent land or property.

This is according to independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Deputy Carol Nolan who said that while the midlands region is currently targeted, rewetting will extend to other counties including Galway.

Bord na Móna said that, “generally, drains shared with landowners will not be altered”, and that where blocking of a shared drain causes an adjoining land to flood, this will be “avoided”.

Farmers are concerned about the “huge impact” rewetting could have on the productivity of land in 15-25 years’ time, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack said.

Rewetting concerns

Offaly-based dairy farmer and ICMSA member, Michael Guinan owns land which is approximately one kilometer and a half away from land that has been rewetted. About 40% of his land is peatland.

Guinan said that a lot of the peatlands in the midlands are grazing ground for dairy cows. Part of his land was wet earlier than he has ever seen last year which is why he has yet to spread fertiliser.

He raised concerns that the rewetting of bogs, which are home to a lot of wildlife, could force badgers to move and mix with others which could see a rapid spread of tuberculosis (TB).

Farmers in the midlands are concerned that “by the time the bog has fully absorbed the water, and it is beginning to damage the nearby land, the people involved in it will be long gone,” he said.

Offaly dairy farmer Pat O’Brien raised concerns that if land is flooded and nutrients leach into rivers, farmers will be blamed for causing water pollution which, he said, adds to the problems with nitrates.

Environment minister

There have been a number of “attempted engagements” with Minister Ryan, McCormack, who said that the ICMSA would host a meeting at any time if the minister committed to attend, told Agriland.

The association’s president stressed that rewetting of any kind, not just on Bord na Móna bogs but also under the proposed EU Nature Restoration Law is a “huge fear” of farmers.

While there has been some engagement with Bord na Móna in terms of assessments being carried out and small amounts of consultation, Deputy Nolan said that written guarantees are needed.

At a briefing on rewetting organised by Deputy Nolan and the ICMSA yesterday (Wednesday, May 10), Social Democrats TD for Wicklow Jennifer Whitmore expressed concerns that the conversations on the issue are turning into a “them versus us”.

Minister Ryan will have to come to the table on a “whole range of issues” with farming, including rewetting, Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, Deputy Claire Kerrane said.

Deputy Kerrane raised the possibility of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine formally requesting a meeting between Minister Ryan and farm organisations, including the ICMSA.