The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have hit out at the recent announcement by the Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine (DAFM) that will see farmers in the eight Co-operation areas not paid until February of 2024.
Speaking on this National President Vincent Roddy stated “how this will be a hammer-blow to the 18,600 farmers who were expecting to see an ACRES payment this month.” With regard to the farmers in ACRES General Roddy, detailed “how there was better news here with proposals to commence payments to these farmers on the 18th of December” However he cautioned that no commitment was given on the number of farmers that would be paid and expressed the view that “many of these farmers could also miss out on any ACRES payment this year.”
The issue around the delayed payment for the 18,600 farmers in ACRES Co-operation stems from the very complex habitat scorecards and a verification process by the DAFM. With regard to this, the INHFA leader detailed how concerns the organisation expressed in discussions with DAFM officials during the development of ACRES has unfortunately come to pass. “During these discussions we expressly stated our preference for measured based schemes similar to GLAS and REPS” maintained the INHFA President.
Unfortunately, despite outlining these concerns, we have, he continued “ended up with this results based model that was always going to be difficult to roll out to large numbers.”
For the farmers that have joined, Roddy detailed how “they now find themselves anxiously looking to February, but with no exact payment date or no idea of how much they will get paid as they still haven’t been told what habitat score each parcel plot has got.”
This information deficit has he continued “plagued the scheme since its inception with farmers encouraged to sign up to a scheme without confirmation on how much they would get.” Beyond the uncertainty around payment rates there is, he added a lack of understanding with farmers as to what they need to do, an issue that is compounded by the lack of information around the habitat status and score of each parcel.”
In relation to the delay in payments Roddy outlined how the DAFM need to look again at this stating “that an indicative habitat score of eight, through a ring-fenced process was used when first assessing commonages and while the DAFM ruled this out at our meeting, it is an option that needs to be further explored as it could pave a way for payment on all CP lands.”
In concluding the INHFA President stressed how “all options must be explored in order to find a way to get payments out to farmers this year.”