The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has sought an immediate farmer consultation from Government on the EU Nature Restoration Law.

The association was staunchly opposed to the law while it was making its way through the European Parliament, with the experience of previous EU agri-environmental legislation and the absence of new funding among its concerns.

“The INHFA have, over the last two years, fought the introduction of the law, based on major concerns around restoration and re-establishment targets that threatens farming activity and the wider rural communities,” its president Vincent Roddy stated on Monday.

“However, once the law had gone through the EU parliament, there was an expectation that, despite concerns by some EU member states, the law would be passed after the European Parliament elections and this is what has happened.

“At this point, it is critical that all interested parties get to see what is being developed and there must now be meaningful engagement with farming organisations, rural communities and all those that will be impacted by this law.”

Roddy was speaking after EU environment ministers gave the final seal of approval for the text to be written into EU law.

Funding question

The farm leader called on the Irish MEPs who backed the law on the assurance that new funding would be provided to outline these funding streams and for these MEPs to ensure that these funds are sufficient to meet farmers’ needs under the law.

The INHFA acknowledged a Dáil motion moved by the Regional Independents group of TDs and passed last Wednesday which gives a safeguard that any farmland used to meet the law’s target will remain classified as farmland eligible for CAP payments.

Roddy stated that this motion must be reflected in the national restoration plan, as must a different approach to nature than was taken with the imposition of Natura 2000 land designations from 1997.

“These have been an unmitigated disaster for farmers and landowners, with no proper funding and, critically, restrictions imposed without consultation, undermining income potential and increasing costs,” he said.

“In any national restoration plan, we must first address these outstanding issues and then ensure that any future plan facilitates current farming activity, remains voluntary and doesn’t undermine income potential or increase costs.”