Irish farm reform offers few bright spots, says BirdWatch Ireland

Ireland’s CAP strategic plan has been approved by cabinet and has a budget of €9.8 billion, but fails to help farmers improve the environment, according to BirdWatch Ireland.

A government announcement said: “The plan will provide vital support to farmers and rural communities. It aims to achieve the twin objectives of ensuring the continued viability of family farms and maximizing the environmental and social sustainability of the sector.”

But BirdWatch Ireland says it offers little to help farmers meet climate targets, restore biodiversity and restore water quality.

The northern lapwing is one of many cultivated species which have declined dramatically in Ireland in recent decades (Damian Money).

Oonagh Duggan, from BirdWatch Ireland, said: “There are positives in Ireland’s CAP Biodiversity Strategy Plan.

“These include that 50% of a plot will be eligible for the base payment even if it contains brush or other habitats, whereas previously farmers felt pressured to remove these habitats for fear of losing payments; that Ireland has applied the Space for Nature condition of the basic payment to all agricultural land; that co-operative projects scale up results-based agri-environment schemes; and that European innovation projects for certain endangered bird species, including breeding waders.

“But apart from these elements, there is no reason to believe that agricultural policy is on the right track to tackle the biodiversity crisis, even though we know that agriculture is the main driver of biodiversity loss. “

An example described by BirdWatch Ireland is that there is no obligation to improve habitats. Farmers are rewarded for simply having hedgerows. This maintains the status quo in Ireland, where a study has shown that in areas of intensive agriculture, 90% of hedgerows are in poor condition. “Farmers need advice and support to restore hedgerows and other habitats,” the organization said.

BirdWatch Ireland went on to describe the strategic plan as a “missed opportunity, particularly when significant public funds are being spent on funding agricultural policy until 2027”.

The organization estimated that only around 7% of the €9.8 billion budget will support effective action on biodiversity, water quality and climate action, describing this as “insufficient”.

Like the UK and other Western European countries, Ireland’s biodiversity has been severely damaged by intensive agriculture. A recent report by BirdLife International showed that almost half of the world’s bird species were in decline, but in Ireland the figure is as high as 63%. Farmland species such as the Eurasian Curlew, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Common Kestrel and Sky Lark are among those that have suffered the greatest losses.

About Keneth T. Graves

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