Farming & Fisheries

Farmers must be organised to avail of environmental funding

October 15th, 2021 4:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

With Ireland’s Cap programme due in Brussels by the start of 2022. it’s time for West Cork to get ready to grasp the opportunities. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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The opportunities for farmers in West Cork in the upcoming Cap programme could be huge. It’s time to seize them, says Mark Robbins

WITH Ireland’s Cap spending programme due to be in Brussels by the New Year, the general shape of what will start in January 2023 is becoming clear.

Details remain, but the broad pattern is clear.

So, is West Cork ready to make the most of what’s coming?

Let’s not get diverted by a dictionary full of policy talk around coherence, convergence, eligibility, capping, and all the compulsory parts of the new programme – there’s not much to be done about these at the West Cork level.

Let’s focus on the opportunities to be taken – the voluntary parts of what’s coming.

For me, as an environmentalist who has worked with hundreds of farmers, these are about the farmed environment opportunity. Will it fit the needs of our special environment? Will it pay?

Looking at what’s coming, the West Cork opportunity could be pretty big. The Department’s consultation document sets out the 13 proposed ‘interventions’ with my eyes falling on the coming ‘agri-environment climate measure’ – payments for biodiversity, water, soil and climate actions. This will take a ‘landscape’ approach so that areas with higher environmental priorities can co-operate. On top of this, the better the results for biodiversity the better the payments (the more birds, the more bucks).

We have the higher environmental priorities here, for biodiversity these would include the bogs, the wet ground, the heaths, the hill ground and the coastal strip and islands.

Our small parcels of old more natural woodland would fit well too. This should be easy for West Cork!

Second, my eyes fell on the so called ‘EIP-Agri’ intervention. This would provide funding for people coming together to work on specific local solutions to environmental, biodiversity and climate change challenges.

Here West Cork could highlight the mix of land uses we have, the range of habitats that are farmed, improving the ‘environmental business’ opportunity, and links to farm business performance.

So, why not marry the new agri-environment and the EIP-Agri measures? Bring a bundle of funding together? Get the environmental dollar helping the farmer? Get the farmer helping the environment?

If West Cork wants to take this chance, we are going to have to argue our case. Other places will, for sure. The monies are going to be there, let’s get organised and grab it before others do.

Mark Robins is an ecologist who has spent 30 years working with the largest environmental NGO in Europe (the RSPB), and spent sabbaticals with the IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy) in the USA.

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