Farmers Must Not be Penalised for Late Submission of ACRES Scorecards

IFA Rural Development Chair Michael Biggins has strongly rejected the suggestion that penalties would be imposed on farmers as a result of planners not submitting their ACRES scorecards on time.

During a recent Farm Advisor Training webinar, officials from the Department of Agriculture outlined significant penalties relating to farmer payments under ACRES, including parcels being removed from the scheme where scorecards completed by planners were not submitted on time.

“We understand the huge pressure some advisors are facing because of the interest in ACRES, but it is unacceptable that farmers would be penalised if planners don’t have the capacity to score the farmland. Farmers are paying planners to score their land as part of the scheme. If it is not delivered within the Department timeframe, farmers should not take the hit,” he said.

Similar penalties are also in place for farmers across the eight Co-Operation areas, where scoring is mandatory on farmland.

IFA Hill Farming Chair Cáillin Conneely said for farmers in the Cooperation Areas, these penalties are extremely severe.

“The results-based score makes up a substantial portion of their overall ACRES payment.  Not only would a late scorecard submission incur a payment penalty, but it is also proposed to exclude farmers from applying for landscape actions in the relevant year. It is completely counterproductive to what the scheme is trying to achieve,” he said.

“On one hand, the Minister wants farmers to adopt this new results-based approach to environmental scheme payments. But on the other, he is happy to penalise them and exclude them from other scheme measures if their planner doesn’t keep their side of the bargain. It absolutely beggars’ belief that the Minister and his officials can stand over this,” Michael Biggins said.

“I’m calling on Minister McConalogue and his officials to scrap these proposed penalties on farmers for late scorecard submission. There needs to be some flexibilities and innovative solutions found. It is outrageous to enforce a rule that will punish farmers and cut their payment due to the fault of a third party. Farmers cannot be the scapegoat for the Department’s shortcomings,” Michael Biggins concluded.

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