Thursday, 9 November 2017
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Hen Harriers Threat Response Plan
216. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the new hen harrier scheme; when details of the new scheme will be published and open for applications; when the first payments will issue; the budget allocated under the rural development programme 2014 to 2020 to this scheme; and the amount of funding expended to date under the relevant rural development programme measure. [47544/17]
At the outset, I should stress that this is a locally-led programme, which is not directly administered by my Department. The design and management of the programme are primarily matters for the local project team, who will work closely with my Department, as this is rolled-out.
The design work for the new Hen Harrier programme has already commenced following the appointment of a locally-led Project Team earlier this year. The Project Team has now completed a series of consultation meetings with farmers in the six designated Hen Harrier Special Protected Areas (SPAs), at which more than 500 farmers attended. A seminar for advisors took place in September, and comprehensive training courses are planned for January 2018 and May 2018. The scientific officers in the team have carried out Hen Harrier monitoring in all SACs and preliminary results from this campaign will be available within weeks. Work is also progressing on detailed Terms & Conditions for the new programme.
I understand that the first expressions of interest from farmers in taking part in the new programme will be invited before the end of 2017. Unlike other schemes, the new hen harrier programme will not be tied to calendar years and this provides for greater flexibility in both recruitment and payment. At this point in time I have no firm projections for payments in relation to 2017 or 2018 – this is something the Project Team is examining and will advise my Department in due course.
A budget of some €25 million has been allocated for the hen harrier programme. It is worth noting that a significant framework of support for farmers with hen-harrier designated land is already in place through my Department's agri-environment scheme GLAS. Under GLAS, farmers with hen harrier habitat qualify for a payment of €370 per hectare and can earn up to €7,000 per annum through a combination of GLAS and GLAS Plus payments. The GLAS Hen Harrier action has proved hugely successful, with some 2,678 farmers now signed up. This accounts for almost 70% of all farmers with hen harrier habitat and represents a major step forward in the conservation of the bird and in securing important additional income for the farmers concerned.