CAP REFORM: Mayo Farmers cannot be left behind

Farmers in Mayo and the west of Ireland are left behind in the government’s Results Based Environment-Agri Pilot Project (REAP). I spoke on this during a Motion on CAP Reform on Thursday, 22nd April.

I hope this pilot scheme bears little resemblance to the actual scheme when it is rolled out. Farmers with commonage and mountain grassland have been completely excluded this time around, even though commonage was included in all previous Agri-Environmental Schemes.

There can be no degradation of payments made on commonage and mountain-type land in the new CAP Budget. As part of the climate action plan, there is an effort to designate more and more lands. There is also an effort to put more severe designations restrictions on them. Consultation with farmers is required about how they will work or what level of compensation is necessary, but this consultation isn’t happening. Farmers have taken all the pain of designations but never received the gains promised.  This has to be addressed. CAP offers an opportunity to introduce fairness into farming, but there must be serious negotiations with the farming bodies before any more designations are done. The planned new level of designation could leave whole areas along the western seaboard sterilised of any activity.  This must be halted and debated properly.

About 10 years ago in Mayo a designation for corncrake happened with little consultation with farmers in the area. The knock-on effects are huge. Despite assurances to farmers that they could continue farming practice as normal, but now cutting dates have been altered.

The whole issue of planning restrictions (due to the designations) has catastrophic impact on farm families and rural dwellers. Many landowners must produce environmental impact statements while applying for a dwelling house, an agricultural shed or a new fence. All these costs must be borne by the landowner, because of designations he never asked for and was misled about.  

A two-tier farming situation where farmers in Mayo are left behind is not acceptable.  The buck stops with the Minister.  Farm families deserve a sustainable guaranteed income.