Farmers to seek assurances on effect of rewetting bogs on lands

Bord na Móna plans to rewet 31,000 hectares of bog to be used as carbon sinks

Farming organisations will appear before the Oireachtas joint committee on agriculture on Tuesday to voice concerns. Photograph: iStock

Farming organisations will appear before the Oireachtas joint committee on agriculture on Tuesday to voice concerns. Photograph: iStock

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Farming organisations will on Tuesday seek assurances from Bord na Móna that the semi-State company’s plan to rewet more than 30,000 hectares of bog will not create new flood plains in the surrounding hinterlands.

Representatives of the Irish Farmers’ Association and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association will appear before the Oireachtas joint committee on agriculture on Tuesday to voice their concerns about the repercussions rewetting bogs might have for surrounding farmland.

Under new plans announced as part of its move away from peat production and burning, Bord na Móna unveiled plans to rewet 80 bogs, comprising 31,000 hectares, to be used as carbon sinks, that will help lower overall greenhouse emissions in the State.

The company has already given assurances to farmers that it will maintain the marginal drains (at the boundaries of the bog) to ensure that the rewetting does not extend to surrounding farmland.

However, it is understood the submissions from the farming organisations will seek written assurances that maintenance will continue in the long term.

Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice said on Monday the marginal drains would need proactive maintenance and a written agreement.

“It is generally lowish land that surrounds the bogs of average quality. It’s not the Golden Vale, ” he said.

“We need written assurance. If it’s not managed properly you are going to get flooding,” he said.

Bord na Móna’s decision to pivot away from its traditional activities has led to a number of challenges and transitional gaps in supply. Last month, suppliers of garden peat and the mushroom industry warned of an impending crisis once supplies of horticultural peat run dry later this year.

Another potential problem has arisen for many farmers in the west who diverted to grow renewable energy crops such as willow. Originally, Bord na Móna had planned to convert its peat-burning power generation stations in Lanesborough and Shannonbridge into biomass burning plants.

However, that plan was jettisoned after planning was refused meaning Edenderry in Co Offaly is the only plant remaining open and some question its long-term feasibility because of the long distance farmers have to travel.

“Environmental groups, the Government and Bord na Móna were encouraging them to get into willow,” Mr Fitzmaurice said. “Now they have been left high and dry.”