Strong cash support from the Government for hill areas in the 2014–2020 Rural Development Plan is crucial, according to the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
This support must come through a meaningful Upland Agri-Environment Scheme and increased support under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS), according to IFA president John Bryan.
Speaking at the IFA Hill Forum in Tuam, Co Galway at the weekend, the IFA president said that farm incomes in hill areas are in a very difficult position as a result of cutbacks to environmental schemes, reductions in the DAS payments and low market returns for hill lamb.
He referred to one sheep farmer he met at the National Ploughing Championships last week whose income has dropped by up to 60 per cent as a consequence of losing REPS and cuts to the DAS.
"This farmer's situation is reflective of hill farmers in every part of the country," said Bryan. "On top of this farmers in hill areas have been under severe environmental restriction as a result of Commonage Framework Plans, which were introduced over 10 years ago. These plans curtailed production and have added to the income crisis." It would be discriminatory against hill farmers and Minister Coveney must take this into account, as well as not introducing regionalisation in the implementation of the new CAP regime.
At the IFA Hill Forum, speakers from the Department of Agriculture, National Parks and Wildlife Service outlined the issues that are relevant particularly with regard to cross compliance, stocking regime and management plans necessary for these areas.
Also IT Sligo and the Wicklow Upland Council presented options for consideration of a new Upland Management Environmental scheme that would go a long way to replacing the loss of REPS in hill areas.
Lisa Deeney , first published in AGRILAND