Irish farmers need “confidence restoration” in Government before agreeing to any nature restoration laws.
That’s according to Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association President Pat McCormack, who criticised the new EU Nature Restoration Law.
The law is the first continent-wide legislation of its kind and calls on EU member states to create “binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems”.
In particular, it calls for farmers to share agricultural land with “high-diversity landscape features” and restore drained peatlands.
Mr McCormack told Newstalk Breakfast rural dwellers and families have no confidence in this new law.
“It doesn't include the word voluntary and that’s critical when it comes to rewetting your farmland,” he said.
“Equally, neighbours need to have confidence that they’ll be looked after if rewetting affects their land and their ability to earn a living.”
Funding for this scheme must also be addressed before it is implemented, Mr McCormack said.
According to updated plans by the EU Council of Ministers, land restoration would take place on state-owned land from the likes of Coillte and Bord na Mona.
Despite that, Mr McCormack is not confident local farmers won’t be affected.
“When you're dealing with water and you affect the flow of water, you're affecting the levels of water,” he said. “Ultimately that affects the ability of farmland to derive an income.
“[It will] change the flow of water across the landscape of Ireland, in the hinterland in particular.”
Farmers require the word “voluntary” to be written in the legislation, as well as a commitment to support rural dwellers affected.
“We've got a commitment that they'll make good any wrongdoings, but they won't give it to us in writing,” Mr McCormack said.
“[Environment] Minister Ryan stands over that commitment but won’t give it to us in writing.
“Minister Ryan or any person in Government right now will move on at some point in time and that's why it is absolutely critical that the ink dries on these commitments.”
Mr McCormack said farmers take the climate issues in regard to biodiversity “head on” - but it’s about “finding a pathway” that allows for both commercial farming and nature restoration.
“Funding needs to be available to the farmers [that] will be affected by these issues,” he said.