March 4, 2024
Farmers’ ACRES payments should not be affected as a result of ‘buffer zone’ rule – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to ensure that farmers’ ACRES payments are not affected as a result of the proposed ‘buffer zone’ in turbary areas on commonages.

It was highlighted in recent weeks that a proposal from the Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine around active turbary areas on commonages could affect ACRES payments for farmers in those areas.

The Irish Hill and Natura Farmers Association (INHFA) had pointed out that this proposal differed to discussions they had had with the Department last year, and that an understanding had been reached on areas where turf is actively cut being scored differently to the overall area.

Teachta Kerrane raised this issue with the Minister in the Dáil and he confirmed that he had only become aware of the proposed ‘buffer zone’ after concerns were raised with him, and was examining if the proposed rule could affect ACRES payments with his Department.

However, a reply from the Minister to a Parliamentary Question submitted by Teachta Kerrane on the issue last week suggested that the Department had reviewed the potential impact of the proposed buffer zone and intended to implement it, despite the possibility of some farmers’ ACRES scores being affected.

Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:

“It is welcome that the Department reviewed the impact a proposed buffer zone on turbary areas could have on the overall scoring for land parcels in those areas, and they found that it is unlikely to negatively affect ACRES payments for most farmers. My understanding is that they do intend to proceed with the proposed buffer zone of 100m around active turbary areas on commonages.

“However, the reply I received acknowledged that the Department continue to work through all of the relevant data, and that there may still be some farmers whose ACRES payment is affected as a result of the inclusion of this rule within the overall scoring of land parcels.

“I appreciate that turbary areas require a specific scoring system, both to protect the land and ensure supports for farmers in those areas. The use of a patchwork scoring system is important for ensuring that overall scores are not impacted, in turn affecting ACRES payments for farmers in those areas.

“Yet, we still have a situation where farmers and organisations such as the INHFA have pointed out that their understanding of how turbary areas on commonage would be scored does not line up with how they will actually be scored.

“It is unfair that farmers could be penalised when they were not aware such a rule existed. Farmers have delivered on their measures, they complied with the rules as they were set out, and the goalposts cannot now just be changed out of the blue.

“With this in mind, I would urge the Minister to engage with any farmers whose scores are affected as a result of a buffer zone being applied to turbary areas, and seek to ensure that ACRES payments are not reduced as a direct result of this rule.”

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