Estonia plans to stop compensating farmers for geese damage

Geese. Source:Ülle Kütsen

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) has sent out for approval a bill to stop paying farmers compensation for damage to crops caused by flocks of geese.

While farmers were expecting the €3,200 compensation cap to be hiked instead of reduced after discussing geese damages with then Environment Minister Madis Kallas (SDE) last spring, leaner times have landed since.

The Ministry of Climate has sent out for feedback a bill to stop compensating farmers for loss of crops to geese. Taimo Aasma, head of the ministry's biodiversity protection department, suggested this could help save €300,000-400,000 annually.

Compensation for sheep killed by wolves and beehives destroyed by bears would be retained. Taimo Aasma also said that large predators need more protection and attention in Estonia.

"The situation of the bean goose and white-fronted goose is favorable both in Estonia and the EU as a whole, which is where these deliberations started," he said.

Farmers expecting hunting permits

Farmers say that flocks of birds have increasingly become a serious nuisance. Olav Kreen, who grows cereals in Ida-Viru County, said that damage caused by geese could stretch into hundreds of thousands of euros for major producers.

While recent studies have shown that killing a few geese is of little use in deterring flocks of the birds, farmers disagree and maintain that hunting is the surest way to protect fields.

"We would get a more cost-effective measure of deterrence, but the bird protectors are not interested in the result, they just want to save the birds," Kreen remarked.

Kerli Ats, head of the Estonian Farmers Union, said that the compensation measure should remain in place for as long as farmers are not allowed to hunt geese.

Taimo Aasma said that relevant discussions will continue and that no decisions have been made in terms of whether to allow spring hunts.

The amendment aims to hike the animal damages compensation instrument sum, currently capped at €3,200 annually, to a maximum of three times as much but would also compensate people for "up to 50 percent of damages" instead of just "50 percent of damages" in the current law.

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal sent the bill out for approval on September 21. Its explanatory memorandum describes the changes as urgent and expects feedback by September 22. The Estonian Farmers Union and the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce heard of the changes from an ERR journalist on September 25.


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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Marcus Turovski

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