INHFA welcomes ACRES payment announcement

Minister McConalogue speaking at the INHFA Donegal AGM held last Fri, Feb 9th in Jackson's Hotel, Ballyfofey.

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have welcomed the decision by Minister McConalogue to issue interim payment for ACRES participants.Speaking on this National President Vincent Roddy outlined how farmers cannot be left in limbo not knowing when they will get their payment or indeed how much they will get. On this basis it is he stated “only right that the Minister and Government act in providing what is still an overdue payment.”

Roddy also detailed how Minister McConalogue who was speaking at the AGM of Donegal INHFA on Friday night indicated that the payment made would be substantial.While appreciating the complexities of the challenge posed the INHFA President stressed “how payment rates need to be hitting past eighty percent of the total due with the ambition to get all farmers paid within the next two weeks.”

The decision to now issue interim payments will, Roddy added, “provide room to address the very contentious issue of turbary rights on commonage lands.” In the last number of days, the INHFA have become aware of the decision to apply a 100-meter buffer zone around active turbary on commonages. When this is applied with the weighted averages then there could be a significant impact on the overall habitat score on commonages where there is active turf cutting. This will also impact payment rates.

This issue was also addressed with the Minister on Friday night who indicated a willingness to get it resolved. On this the INHFA leader was adamant that farmers cannot be penalised for actions carried out by other people, especially when they have a legal right to carry out these actions.

There is, he continued, “a real danger that ACRES becomes a very divisive issue across our hills and commonages and as this issue doesn’t only concern farmers, it has the potential to divide entire communities and create rifts that will still exist when ACRES is nothing more than a distant memory.”

On this basis, he stressed “it is vital that the 100m buffer and weighted average are reassessed, and we are encouraging the Minister to go back to the position that we understood had been agreed last May and confirmed by Minister Pippa Hackett in reply to a Parliamentary question.”