Farmer says turf cutting ban will have huge impact

A Longford farmer has said the designation of agricultural land as an area of conservation under the EU habitat directive will have a devastating effect on farmers in affected areas.

A Longford farmer has said the designation of agricultural land as an area of conservation under the EU habitat directive will have a devastating effect on farmers in affected areas.

The EU’s habitat directive which prevents cutting of turf on 53 raised bogs earmarked as areas of conservation also extends to large portions of reclaimed bog land within these areas.

Gerry Gearty, Chairman of the Clooneen bog complex between Rooskey and Newtownforbes said 60 percent of the land designated in this complex under the directive is currently used for agriculture.

Under the directive, farmers would no longer be able to graze animals on the land, spread fertilizer or manure, spray the land or even clear the drains.

Mr Gearty estimates 22 to 48 percent of each farmer’s land holding will be affected by these changes. One farmer is set to have these restrictions placed on 50 acres of his land. “There’s a lot of frustration. It’s one thing to be told you can’t cut turf but it’s another thing to be told you can’t farm your land. There’s a definite feeling of being bullied off our own land,” Mr Gearty said.

“There’s a sense of irony about all this too. If the land deteriorated because you can’t look after it properly because of these restrictions, the Department of Agriculture could very well say in a few years they won’t pay the Single Farm Payment.”

However, Mr Gearty said the farmers affected by these changes fully intend on farming their land as normal. “We’re certainly stuck in no-man’s land. The NPWS (National Park and Wildlife Service) told us they didn’t plan on enforcing the new rules but when we asked for that in writing, they refused, so we don’t know where we stand,” Mr Gearty observed.