Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to confirm that Farmers will not be penalised in cases where scorecards, required as part of ACRES, are submitted late by Planners.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“It is really concerning that Farmers will be penalised should their Planner, whom they have to pay themselves, fail to submit their ACRES scorecards on time.
“I have been contacted by Farmers in ACRES Co-operation zones who are now worried that, should there be a delay, they will face penalties, including financial penalties and exclusion from other scheme measures. Given the level of demand for the scheme and the pressure Planners will be under, it would not be surprising if these predicted delays do occur
“I submitted a query to Minister McConalogue last week, raising the worry of severe penalties for Farmers with him and to find out what he intends to do to reassure farmers regarding these potential penalties.
“His response gave no indication that he intends to provide flexibility for Farmers or additional resources to address the time pressures that have been flagged at this stage.
“It is really disappointing that the alarm has been sounded on this issue and apparently no action will be taken.
“This is not the way to start off a new scheme that the Minister himself describes as ‘Ireland’s flagship agri-environment scheme.’ Farmers have bought in, they applied to this Scheme in huge numbers and now before it is even up and running, one of the first messages to Farmers is if your Planner is late in submitting your scorecard, you will suffer the consequences.
“Farmers have proven in the demand for ACRES that they are ready, willing and able to engage in environmental schemes, this is a very bad start.
“The Department of Agriculture need to be fairer to Farmers and where issues are raised, they need to responsive and be willing to make changes to assist Farmers, especially at the start of a new Scheme.
“I am calling on the Minister to take penalties off the table when it comes to this issue.”