Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, explains why he believes ACRES (the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme) is anti-rural Ireland and anti-small farmer.
The new ACRE Scheme, which the government has announced in draft form, is totally anti-rural and opposed to small farmers.
If you dig into the scheme and the terms and conditions, you will see that a farmer on 40 to 50-acres has no chance of gaining any type of proper compensation for the work that they will be doing.
Under the low-input permanent pasture scheme, you have to sow extra varieties. If you do not have extra flowers in the 10ha, you will be back to payment of €2,000 as against €3,140 in GLAS.
Also, you are paid separately under the fencing off of watercourses in the GLAS Scheme, whereas this is included in the €2,000 on the new low input permanent pasture.
Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme
For the smaller farmers that are trying to grow or get extra money, you are not allowed to plant any trees around that 10 hectares to try and bring up your money.
So, for the small farmer, this leaves them with little or virtually no extra income.
On top of that, for farmers that traditionally sowed the wild bird cover, the date is now brought forward by two weeks.
You have to put two more varieties in with the original varieties in the line of linseed and oats mixed together; now you have to add two more to it.
On top of that, it is made very clear that if this ground is in any way marginal and the crop fails, you end up with no payment.
Is there no common sense to be applied in the department as regards the west of Ireland?
There are a lot of areas that have sowed wild bird cover, and deer are coming out of forests and eating it.
This is not being taken into account. Do they believe now that the birds will get fatter if the crop is sown two weeks earlier?
This scheme will not help the planners. I have talked to planners around the country who have brought in up to 50 farmers. Before they bring them in, bear in mind, that they would spend an hour talking to them.
And from what I can see, the small farmers with up to 40 – 50 acres, many of which were in GLAS, are now refusing to be in the new scheme.
For a matter of fact, one planner I spoke to said that he had talked to 43 different farmers that were in GLAS, but only 4 will take part in the new scheme.
Does the department not realise that what you will see happening now is that farmers will rear extra cattle instead, which might make them better off than the way this scheme is laid out?
I cannot understand this government announcing schemes, but they are making it harder for farmers to make a decent income, especially for the small family farmer in the west of Ireland.
This government appears to be totally anti-rural in announcements that they are making at the moment.
Minister McGonalogue needs to pause this scheme immediately and change it around.
Otherwise, he will be contributing to the demise of the farming community, especially the small farmers that the DAFM should aim a lot of these schemes to support them.
It is regrettable that a minister coming from the northwest of this country cannot see the holes in the scheme that his department has drawn up.
But it is no surprise to me that this scheme has been drawn up by the same people that are looking over the forestry, as well.
Why is it that other schemes have been successful within the department, like BPS and ANC, and even the Organic Farming Scheme, can attract farmers?
Anti-small farmer scheme
But once again, we see the environmental scheme that has been talked up to being one of the finest schemes ever is basically an anti-small farmer scheme.
This government needs to relook at what they are doing here. They need to ensure that it will be accessible and workable for small farmers and fund it properly.
Because the reality of it is that if you have 40-acres of land, or maybe 50, the most you will be able to get out of this is €2,500 to €3,000.
That will be between €1,300 and €1,800 less than what farmers received from GLAS.
Is that not proof in itself of where we are now going in the agricultural sector?
There are great people in the DAFM bringing out schemes that are very workable, like BPS, which is a good scheme.
However, when it comes to environmental schemes, the government seems to be continuing to put obstacles in front of farmers.
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