Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, has been informed that there will not be a new compensation scheme for farmers in the Twelve Bens / Maamturk area.

This is despite the fact that stocking levels will be forced on farmers once the current scheme ends in November this year.

Deputy Ó Cuív commented: “Under the current Twelve Bens, Maamturk compensation scheme, farmers were forced to amend their farming practices in 2008 and in many cases were forced into major destocking of their flock.

“In return farmers were paid compensation under a scheme organised by the National Parks and Wildlife Service or alternatively through the REPS and Agri-Environmental Option Scheme (AEOS).

“In the case of farmers who chose the REPS or Agri-Environmental Option Scheme, an additional annual payment of €2,000 per annum over five years was paid by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to farmers.

“The Minister has now announced that at the conclusion of this scheme there will be no further scheme available to farmers. The major problem that has arisen is that having lost stock on mountains, it is a very, very slow process to re-stock to a viable stocking level. This is because sheep cannot be bought in and put on a mountain as they will not remain on the mountain if not born there. Furthermore, it is a very slow process for farmers to increase stock numbers on hills by breeding.”

Deputy Ó Cuív added that it could take up to ten years for a farmer whose stock was reduced from 300 ewes to 100 ewes to increase the stock again.

“In the meantime, the Department have made it clear that they will not be willing to compensate these farmers for these losses.

“This is on top of the refusal by the Department, despite the agreement entered into with the farmers in 2008, to pay farmers compensation for the period from November 2012 until the new AEOS scheme started in May of this year.

“This is typical of the attitude of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and also the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht towards hill farmers. It seems to be one of total distain and disregard for the financial hardship that farmers are suffering. This is coupled with the battle fought by the Minister to try and ensure that hill farmers did not get any significant increase in payments under the revised CAP 2014 – 2020 as proposed by the Commissioners.

“Thankfully, that effort failed and hill farmers will receive a minimum payment of €150 per acre per annum. However, the Minister is still refusing to give the Greening Payment to hill farmers on the same basis as farmers on better land get this payment, despite the huge ecological restraints on most of our marginal land. It seems that Ministers have a “To hell or to Connaught” attitude towards the West of Ireland and particularly towards Connemara.”