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Further consultation is to follow with Clare farmers and the Minister for Agriculture on the subject of carbon credits and their ownership.

In a recent article in The Irish Farmers Journal, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue (FF) is quoted as saying, “farmers who planted forestry on their land with State funding do not own the carbon credits on that land and cannot sell those credits”. These comments have caused confusion and anger within both the farming and forestry industries.

Rewarding farmers for the carbon sequestered on their land has been dubbed “the political soundbyte of the year” in farming circles. Farmers in Clare have warned that it could be up until 2026 before they are rewarded for sequestered carbon however a Limerick dairy farmer and forestry owner secured close to €9,000 for the carbon credits from 100ac of semi-mature woodland in July of this year.

Addressing the Minister on Monday, Liscannor’s Pat Nagle outlined that remarks made suggested personnel who received grants would limit their ownership of carbon credits. “If we sign to the eco-scheme, do we sign away the value of our carbon”.

Speaking in Ennis Mart on Monday, Joe Kelly declared to the Minister that a contract was already signed for his twenty one acres of land. “I know what I signed, there is nothing in my contract to say I don’t own my carbon credits. I own my credits”.

Negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy will determine more regarding the ownership of carbon credits, Minister McConalogue said in response to the queries. His reply was described by Nagle as “non-committal. To me he didn’t answer the question, he said all of this would be part of negotiations. I would have thought ownership of carbon credit is a straight yes or no answer, the Deparment is either considering they own it or they don’t, I do feel farming organisations will need to advise their members to be cautious in relation to the schemes until the full detail of it comes out and the small print is available”.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine failed to respond to a request from The Clare Echo to provide further clarity to farmers on their ownership of carbon credits.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) has said farmers should be rewarded with carbon credits based on the level of planting on their land, rather than operating a system of penalisation.

“Digitised maps and aerial imagery, which are used to determine the extent of one’s Single Farm Payment, provide a lot of detail in terms of hedgerow and tree plantations. This information is available to both the department and commission in percentage terms of the overall landholding and I think that percentage should be used to provide each farmer with a carbon credit,” the Meelick native said.

Deputy Crowe added, “This year, government is preparing its first ever carbon budget and whilst each sector will be impacted by this, I think insofar as farmers are concerned, we need to take a more carrot, less stick approach. For centuries, farmers have been custodians of the landscape and most are practitioners of environmental farming”.

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