Environmental Pillar Press Release

13th June 2014
News Item

Minister Coveney needs to act fast to stop impending social and environmental crisis

Environmental groups are witnessing major scrub destruction happening on farms now.
Mishandling of farm payments is seeing some farmers pushed to the brink. Ten farmers in West Cork are considering a High Court challenge to government clawback. The Environmental Pillar is calling on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to take swift action to halt a social and environmental crisis that is unfolding across the country.

Some of the most marginalised farmers are facing massive cuts in their income because of government mishandling of farm payments.

Farmers who were told by officials to claim for scrub land are now being told they should never have claimed for it and the money they received previously will be deducted from future payments.

While this has not affected many farmers those on poorer land are being hit the most by this.

This is leading farmers to clear great swathes of scrub around the country. So that claims can be made for this land in future.

These are valuable habitats for wildlife and critical for biodiversity. Scrub is a broad term used to describe gorse, furze, rushes and areas of regenerating woodland. It is a valuable habitat with a role in carbon sequestration, flood control, biodiversity, and can offer essential practical benefits as part of a traditional farming methodology.

"The Minister needs to step in and stop this before it is too late," said Cillian Lohan spokesman for the Environmental Pillar.

"These farmers were only following advice and it is not fair to have them take the brunt of the penalties imposed on the Department of Agriculture for their mistakes. The government's approach to this is forcing farming families to choose between the environment and their livelihood".

"We can't pretend to have a "green" agricultural sector in Dublin while rural Ireland is ripped to pieces by excavators."

"The new CAP is hailed by some as being green. The reality is that wholesale habitat destruction and biodiversity loss is the most tangible outcome to date."

"The rhetoric from government is in stark contrast to the reality in communities, where small farmers are being driven off the land, and rural economies are under attack".

"It would appear the traditional farming model, based on local expertise, and extensive high quality output has no place in the race to satisfy the industrialisation of the agricultural sector."

"The building craze that made millionaires of the few but bankrupted the country and resulted in our loss of sovereignty is being replaced by an agricultural bubble now showing the first signs of devastating local rural communities."

"Minister Coveney cannot hide behind the EU on this. The EU will be appalled at what is going on. The new CAP agreement allows for these habitats to be funded, in recognition of the vital role they play. The Minister has the power to resolve this and needs to act swiftly."

ENDS

Notes:

About the Environmental Pillar

The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 27 national environmental organisations. It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems.

Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar: An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Irish Doctors' Environmental Association, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.