Thursday, 26 September 2019

Questions (153)

Peter Burke


153. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a payment for maintaining hedgerows will be included in the next round of CAP negotiations. [39178/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department recognises the importance of hedgerows and woodland habitats and their roles in biodiversity, agricultural management and potential carbon sequestration.

Hedgerows are an important feature of the Irish landscape with a network estimated in excess of 300,000km, providing multiple benefits such as: a distinctive character, important for wildlife, a barrier and shelter for livestock, as well as acting as important carbon stores. As such, they are recognised as valuable landscape features under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and thus are eligible for BPS payments. It is also recognised that such features must be appropriately managed and maintained by appropriate trimming to keep them in optimum condition, both as field boundary features and to help maintain the optimum structure and thickness to encourage bird nesting etc., and best practice prevails where this is done as part of an appropriate cutting rotation.

Their importance is further recognised through the inclusion of a number of hedgerow-specific actions within the GLAS (Agri-environment Scheme under pillar II). In addition, farmers in GLAS can select the action of coppicing of hedges and/or laying of hedges which seek to improve the biodiversity value of escaped or abandoned hedges.

The restriction on cutting hedgerows set out in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 as amended by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Heritage Act 2018 falls under the remit of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

As regards the new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 which were launched in June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan, the proposals, as drafted, involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments.

Negotiations on the draft proposals are continuing at EU level. While significant progress has been made to date, decisions on key issues have yet to be agreed at EU level.