The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to save the Burren Programme.

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch called on the Minister to review what he described as the “disastrous decision” to replace the Burren Programme with the “generic” ACRES co-operation scheme.

“The Minister is risking undermining the incredible progress made in regenerating the Burren as a world-leading example of how nature restoration and livestock farming can exist in harmony,” he said.

Punch’s comments come following a decision by the Burren Programme’s co-founders Brendan Dunford and Sharon Parr to step away from the new BurrenACRES scheme, due to their concerns, particularly over farmer payment structures.

"So, we talked to the Department about it and we were kind of frustrated by the response, so we said in good faith that we had to stand down,” Dunford told the Irish Farmers Journal.


Eddie Punch said it would be an “incredible act of self-harm to set back all the progress made in the Burren”.

“The Burren is an integral part of how we can showcase Irish cattle farming to international audiences, but it is also incredibly important for the diversity of flora and fauna.

The Burren Programme has ensured that farmers don’t under graze or overgraze their cattle, says the ICSA. \ Philip Doyle

“This has only been possible by ensuring that farmers don’t under graze or overgraze, and that grazing is managed both during summer and winter.

"This has required very specific supports for farmers, which have been delivered based on real consultation with farmers and finding solutions based on feedback,” he said.


The ICSA general secretary called on Minister McConalogue to listen to the concerns of the Burren Programme co-founders.

“The Minister must hear their concerns and he must act on those concerns. They have shown that results-based programmes can work, but this is contingent on a real level of engagement and consultation with the farmers on the ground. This is a lesson that the Minister and his Department need to learn.

“I am now calling on Minister McConalogue to stand up for the excellent outcomes achieved so far with the Burren Programme and for him to give a guarantee that this good work can continue.

“The best way to do this is to re-establish the Burren Programme or else to integrate its key features, including payment options, into the ACRES scheme,” he said.

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