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Minister Charlie McConalogue said he intends to meet farmers on the Burren Programme and the Hen Harrier Project this Tuesday, November 22.

Agriculture Minister agrees to meet Burren farmers

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THE agriculture minister is to meet farmers on two highly successful Clare environmental schemes, amid fears over the fall-out of their amalgamation into a new nationwide programme.

Minister Charlie McConalogue informed party colleague Senator Timmy Dooley of his intention to meet farmers on the Burren Programme and the Hen Harrier Project next Tuesday (November 22).

This follows a pledge last week by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin to take the matter up with Mr McConalogue.

Senator Dooley, who met farmers on a visit to the Burren with MEP Billy Kelleher, said he was hopeful that fears over a drop in payments, could be allayed. “This is good news and an opportunity for farmers to make their concerns known directly to Minister McConalogue,” he said. 

The Minister also gave that commitment in the Seanad last Tuesday to Senator Martin Conway, who raised the issue with him. The Fine Gael member highlighted the huge success of the Burren Programme in supporting environmental conservation and the local economy.

“We want to be in a situation where farmers can earn a living from their farms and at the same time protect the environment; they are not mutually exclusive,” he said. “They do go hand in hand. In many ways, what Brendan Dunford and his team have proven in the Burren through their work over the years is that they go hand in glove, if it is done properly.”

Senator Conway outlined how, under ACRES, farmers would not have the same incentives to implement environmentally-friendly methods. He said organic producers could lose out and that bespoke expertise available to farmers could be lost. 

“I hope that the Minister will get his officials to re-engage and look at the key pillars that the Burren project is concerned about and sit around a table and come up with a solution,” he said.

“These are very reasonable people who want to engage in a positive way because they understand that the Minister is trying to do his best to expand the environmental targets through farming. What has been achieved in the Burren could easily regress if this is not dealt with.”

Minister McConalogue noted his intensive engagement with Senator Conway and other Oireachtas members. He expressed the hope that the expertise gathered from the Burren Programme could now be extended as farmer participation increases by 300%, and an extra 29,000 hectares of land is covered. 

“The agri-climate rural environment scheme, ACRES, builds on the learnings and experience of the Burren programme and the Department’s successful European innovation partnerships, EIPs,” he said. “ACRES is a €1.5 billion scheme with two approaches.

“The first is the co-operation project, CP, which applies in eight mapped zones that are areas of high nature value; hold significant carbon stores; and are home to some of the most pristine waters in the country. The second, ACRES general, is for all other farmers who do not fall within co-operation project zones.

“One of the eight CP zones is the Burren, which is expected to see some 1,300 farmers approved to join the scheme, more than four times the number participating in the Burren programme.”

It was always the intention to scale up the positive aspects and actions from the EIPs or locally-led schemes, such as the Burren programme, and to mainstream them into large-scale national agri-environment schemes. This will provide a much larger environmental benefit and enable a greater number of farmers to contribute to environmental public good such as biodiversity and water quality. I am pleased to see the outgoing Burren programme team successfully tender and win the right to be the new co-operation project lead under the ACRES scheme, ensuring the transition.”

Senator Conway said he was hopeful of a resolution to farmers’ concerns. Deputy Joe Carey said he had met Minister McConalogue on the issue and was also optimistic of a resolution. 

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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