The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, confirmed that payments under the 2015 Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP) have commenced issuing to farmers.
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This is the sixth year of the agri-environmental programme for farmers in the Burren region of north Clare and south Galway.
The Programme is implemented in conjunction with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Burren Life team.
Minister Coveney particularly praised the work of the Programme Steering Group comprising representatives from Burren IFA, farm advisors, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Monuments Service, Teagasc, the programme management team based in Carron, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The Minister recalled thathe had provided €1 million from national funds for the continuation of the Programme in 2015 as unused Single Payment Scheme funds were no longer available.
Minister Coveney said “I am delighted to confirm the issuing of payments totaling over €950,000 to 156 farmers under this scheme to support high environmental value farming in the Burren, which is one of Ireland’s outstanding landscapes and is known worldwide.
“This brings the allocation to participating farmers by my Department over the six years of the Scheme to almost €6 million’’.
Investment under the BFCP has given rise to a range of important benefits, such as improved water quality in this very sensitive karst landscape, the protection of sensitive limestone springs from pollution, and allowing the Burren’s famous rare flora to emerge every spring.
In addition, over 163 km of scrubbed-over animal paths have been reopened, enabling livestock access to under-grazed grasslands to restore some of Europe’s rarest grassland habitats.
The Minister continued ‘Without doubt the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme guarantees excellent value for money and works to improve biodiversity, water quality, cultural and landscape attributes on almost 13,000 hectares of Ireland’s flagship heritage landscape, the Burren’.
In December 2015 the Minister opened the new Burren Programme for application from interested parties. This new scheme is one of the flagship projects to be supported under the proposed new Locally-Led Measure for the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020.
This programme will build on the success and experience of similar schemes for the Burren, and principles which have evolved out of those schemes are central to how the new measure goes about meeting its objectives of conserving the unique heritage, environment and communities of the Burren.
The first 200 participants for the Burren Programme have already been identified, and a further tranche later in 2016 and one in 2017 will enable more interested farmers to apply for this scheme. ■
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