Farmers in Ireland are expressing concern over the proposed European Union (EU) Nature Restoration Law and the issue of rewetting. At Delvin Mart in Co. Westmeath, many farmers believe that there is not enough scientific evidence behind the proposed scheme and that if it is introduced, it could have far-reaching impacts, as has been seen with previous schemes in Ireland.
David Drumm, chairperson of Delvin Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), cited the example of the Burren in Co. Clare, where cattle were removed from the area and scrub land was allowed to return, resulting in the disappearance of natural flora and fauna. Cattle had to be reintroduced to reinstate the natural flora and fauna that had existed for hundreds of years with normal farming practices. Farmers are also concerned over the lack of community and farmer consultation in relation to any proposed rewetting schemes.
Elliott Potterton, who works at Delvin Mart, warned of the potential repercussions of rewetting not only for farmers but also for his family’s mart. He said that he is concerned about the rewetting as “it does affect our customer base” and the potential of “farmers cutting back on their stock due to their location”. Potterton also said that rewetting would affect the price of land and property, as no one knows for certain yet if the proposed Nature Restoration Law could potentially “devalue” property in the surrounding area.
In June 2022, the European Commission proposed a Nature Restoration Law to increase biodiversity in areas including managed forests and agricultural land. The proposal aims to restore 20% of EU land and sea by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. It also includes binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species.
An impact assessment by the commission which accompanies the proposal notes that Ireland is one of the member states with the biggest area of wetlands, particularly peatlands, at 9%. For drained peatlands under agricultural use, the commission said member states shall put in place, “without delay”, restoration measures, including rewetting, on at least 30% of such areas by 2030 of which at least a quarter is rewetted; 50% of such areas by 2040 of which at least half is rewetted; and 70% of such areas by 2050 of which at least half is rewetted.
The impact assessment also notes that Ireland will be among the member states that will be “by far” most affected by the restoring and rewetting of drained peatlands under agricultural use. The overall restoration needed across all ecosystems in Ireland has been assessed as a minimum restoration area of 5,493km and a maximum area of 6,297km, which equals 7.8% and 8.9% of the total area (70,699km).
The proposed Nature Restoration Law has been met with mixed reactions from different sectors in Ireland. While environmentalists and some farmers support the law, others are concerned about its potential impact on their livelihoods. The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called for a comprehensive impact assessment to be carried out before any decisions are made on the proposed scheme.
The IFA has also called for more consultation with farmers and local communities, saying that they should have a say in the development of any rewetting schemes. The association has also expressed concern about the potential impact on land prices and property values.
In response to these concerns, the European Commission has said that the proposed Nature Restoration Law is designed to benefit both the environment and the economy. The commission has also said that it is committed to working with member states and stakeholders to ensure that the proposed scheme is implemented in a way that is fair and balanced.
As the debate over the proposed Nature Restoration Law continues, it is clear that there are many different perspectives on the issue. While some believe that the law is necessary to protect the environment, others are concerned about its potential impact on their livelihoods. Ultimately, it will be up to policymakers to find a solution that balances these competing interests and ensures a sustainable future for all.