The Department of Agriculture must ensure balancing Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) payments are paid out to all farmers as soon as possible, and to come clean and let farmers know where they stand with regard parcel scoring and non-productive investment (NPI) applications, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) hill farming chair Caillin Conneely.

“Farmers in co-operation areas were sold a pup with ACRES. We were promised up to €10,500 each year for the five years of the scheme, but we got nothing at all in year one, and even now, haven’t a clue how much, or when we will get paid this year,” Conneely said.

“In the dark”

“We are in the dark completely on how our lands scored and where we stand with our NPI applications. It’s just not acceptable. Farmers can’t continually be at a loss because the Department haven’t their ducks in a row.”

With applications for NPIs closed in December last year, he said that it has been “radio silence ever since”.

“We are hearing it could be late summer now before any NPI approvals start to issue, to allow farmers start the work, never mind get paid for it,” the IFA hill farming chair said.

He said that a “complete rethink” is needed and called on the Minister to ensure innovative solutions are found.

“The NPI gave farmers a chance to build up payments where scoring may not have been as high as anticipated, but again we haven’t a clue where we stand here either. We have no idea how our parcels scored,” he added.

“The Department have given us the option that lands can be rescored in year two if desired through their BISS applications, much to ease the pressure on planners, but what I do might be very different if I know my land scored a seven versus what I think scored a seven but actually only scored a two or three on the Department end.”

“I simply need to know where I stand before I can make any kind of informed decision. Farmers need and deserve better clarity. We are shooting in the dark otherwise,” he said.

Concluding, he said: “This year already has been very challenging on hill farmers, with huge extra expense. Cashflow pressures are building on many farms. We need clarity and certainty where we stand so we can plan going forward.”