IFA Rural Development chair John Curran said Minister Charlie McConalogue has to make it a political priority that all farmers get into ACRES.
Speaking after a meeting with Department of Agriculture officials in Portlaoise today, he said farmer participation in agri-environment schemes over the lifetime of this CAP term cannot be limited to 50,000 ACRES participants.
“All farmers interested in an agri-environment scheme must be accommodated. The Minister has to find the necessary funding to ensure this happens,” he said.
“The message we got today was clear. Anything beyond 50,000 ACRES places would be a political decision, so the Minister has to exert his influence within Government to make it happen,” he said.
John Curran said there cannot be a repeat of what happened with delayed payments last year. “It’s just not good enough. We either want to achieve our environmental targets or we don’t,” he said.
He welcomed the news from Department officials that payment runs for remaining ACRES General applicants will kick off early next week, and run fortnightly for additional cleared cases.
ACRES CP payments are to commence end-February, and balancing payments for both ACRES General and CP end-May.
IFA National Hill Farming chair Caillin Conneely said there is a huge degree of frustration building among hill farmers at the delay and uncertainty surrounding ACRES CP payments. The Department need to do everything within their power to ensure the maximum number of ACRES CP payments are made, as quickly as possible. Low-income families, particularly those in vulnerable sectors, rely on agri-environment programmes to survive. We are heading into a busy, and expensive, time of year again, so early payment is essential”.
“As a hill farmer, we were sold a pup with ACRES. Any further delay would rub salt into the wound, and kill off any remaining confidence farmers have in the Department and this scheme,” he said.