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‘As a peat land farmer, I will not be taking part in ACRES’

In this article, Gerry Loftus of the Rural Ireland Organisation shares his view on the ACRES scheme.

We, the Rural Ireland Organisation, have lambasted the government and farming advisory services as information continues to be drip fed to the farming community on ACRES.

In my view, the new scheme is nothing more than an act of state-sanctioned corporate theft. Farmers’ property rights are being infringed. The government is stealing our most valuable assets; our carbon credits. How else could one describe it?

RIO absolutely rejects this scheme and is urging all farmers to do likewise. The very same ideology is being applied here as was to forestry.

So, for example, a farmer plants a forest, draws a premium for either the twenty or fifteen-year term and harvests the timber later.

The terms and conditions of the contract then kick in, which, in many cases, has not been explained to the farmer.

The farmer must then fence and replant the land, fertilise it, thin it, and maintain the forest at his own expense while the state claims the benefit of the carbon credits.

The state then uses these carbon credits to protect the big corporate polluters from having to make any serious changes.

So the farmer is cynically exploited by the state to protect the agri-corporations. My understanding is the same applies in ACRES, where a farmer plants hedges, trees, buffer zones along rivers, rewetting and maintaining peatlands.

This land will no longer qualify as an eligible hectare for BISS. The owner will never farm it again as the land, like forestry, has now changed land use, from agriculture to climate and environmental.

LULUCF

The EU, some years ago, developed a mechanism for carbon accounting purposes called LULUCF, meaning Land Use, Land-Use Change Forestry.

All land, as well as forestry now used for carbon sequestration purposes, will now fall into this category.

It is despicable that farmers are not being made aware of this by farm advisors facilitating information days on ACRES.

In Ireland’s climate change plan, the government removed all peat soils from agriculture and placed them with forestry meaning it will also form part of LULUCF.

Carbon removals

Senator Tim Lombard – who is also a dairy farmer – put forward an amendment proposing that all carbon removals be used to help with setting the emissions targets for agriculture.

Minister Ryan accepted the proposal, but no rural TD asked the question how can this be allowed without first putting in place a payment system for farmland that was to be used for this purpose?

The silence is now deafening from all farming organisations. In the recent emissions debate, it has been confirmed that LULUCF is to be used to write down emissions from industry.

Therefore, huge feedlots, meat processors, dairy processors and industry, in general, will now have the use of our carbon credits.

Big dairy, beef, poultry and pig farmers are also in on the act as their farming enterprises are registered as companies, so they will fall under industry.

Peat soils 

Discussions have taken place with the coordinator of the Wild Atlantic Nature Project” Dr. Derek Mcloughlin, to outline the position of RIO on the ACRES scheme.

Further meetings are requested with Minister Ryan and the Minister for Agriculture. RIO will also be writing to the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach on this matter.

Farmers on peat soils have a lot of waking up to do. If they hand over their land to the state in this scheme for a few pieces of silver from now until 2027, it will be seen as the greatest insult to the men and women of Ireland who fought and died for equality and our freedom.

Farmers on commonage land need to be aware that joining any scheme on common land without the full agreement of all shareholders could now have legal implications.

Co-Operation Measures in ACRES scheme

Farmers on hills from Donegal to Kerry will fall within one of the eight Regions the country has been divided into to facilitate what is called the Co-Operation Measures.

These so-called measures will be undertaken by farmers on a cooperation basis to improve the quality of these lands for carbon-capturing purposes.

The payments will be based on the results achieved. A sustainability plan will be developed by the co-operation team. The team will be made up of a number of state agencies.

Most notable taking part here are ecologists, who study plants and animals, ornithologists, who study birds and hydrologists, who study the impacts of agriculture on water quality.

The sustainability plan developed here will determine how peat soils will form part of community life for the foreseeable future.

This plan will form part of the Peatland Strategy to be published in 2024/2025.

As a leader of the Rural Ireland Organisation and a peat land farmer, I will not be taking part in ACRES and have publicly declared this on social media.

Carbon emissions absorbed and stored on a farmer’s land are the property of the land owner. If an Irish citizen sells property or land, there is a legally binding system in place to register title and declare ownership.

Demands 

RIO is demanding the following: that a “carbon registration office” similar to the land registry is immediately established.

That a system of measure and manage carbon sequestration at the farmgate level is set up.

Also, that a trading system to determine carbon credits and farmers be allowed to sell or lease carbon credits is established.

We are also demanding that legislation be moved in the Dáil to determine legal ownership of carbon credits by landowners.

Also, we are reminding farmers that their very future and the future of the next generation is now in their hands.

We are urging farmers that until these demands are met they should reject this land grab and under no circumstances join this farcical scheme.

The Rural Ireland Organisation will host public meetings to discuss ACRES in Killaser Community Center on Thursday, September 8th, 2022, at 8.30 pm and Hiney’s Crossmolina on Thursday, September 15th, at 8.30 pm.

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