Access issue as farmers count cost of wildfires
FARMERS might have to consider restricting access to commonages and uplands because of the illegal burning of these lands.
The Department of Agriculture has written to hundreds of farmers over the last fortnight informing them that the area they claimed for under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) had been reduced because of illegal burning.
The farmers can accept the deduction proposed by the Department, or appeal the decision.
Gerry Loftus, Mayo chairman of the INHFA, warned that the decision to impose these reductions could have implications for access to uplands and commonages.
“Will farmers be able to sit down and watch people walking onto their lands knowing that if they accidentally start a fire the landowner could lose out?” Mr Loftus asked.
“Can you afford to risk your payment? That’s the question.”
Mr Loftus pointed out that farmers were not generally the people who started uncontrolled fires, but they are now being held accountable.
Over 300 farmers attended an INHFA meeting in Achill, Co Mayo last Wednesday night to discuss the issue.
The meeting heard that the rate of deductions imposed by the Department varied from commonage to commonage.
The INHFA has advised farmers not to agree to any reductions to their BPS eligible area as the matter is being discussed with Department officials.
Farmers fear that penalties could be imposed along with the reductions, and that any changes to farmers’ BPS eligible areas could impact on other schemes.
Following a meeting with the Department yesterday, the INHFA’s Colm O’Donnell said that the Department plan to conduct a review on an individual farmer basis into the deductions issued.
“We support a review of these cases. We presented a case to the Department which showed that more than 90 farmers weren’t responsible for the wild fires and made every effort to put them out,” said Mr O’Donnell.
“There is EU regulation that safeguards the farmer in these situations when it wasn’t their fault.
“Innocent farmers should not be victimised.
“We don’t condone illegal setting of fires but we clearly showed that farmers weren’t at fault.
“It will be a case by case review and we encourage farmers who got the letters to respond to them with evidence they have that the fire wasn’t their fault in a timely fashion.”