Farmers' Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) payments should not be affected by proposed buffer zones in active turbary areas on commonages, Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson Deputy Claire Kerrane has said.

In recent weeks, the issue around active turf cutting in turbary areas on commonages and the impact that would have on ACRES payments arose again.

It was highlighted that a proposal from the Department of Agriculture in this regard could affect ACRES payments for farmers in those areas.

The Irish Hill and Natura Farmers’ Association (INHFA) said this proposal differed to discussions it had had with the Department last year and an understanding had been reached that areas where turf is actively cut would be scored differently to the overall area.

Parliamentary question response

Responding to a parliamentary question last week, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the Department had reviewed the potential impact of the proposed buffer zones.

Deputy Kerrane welcomed that the Department reviewed this and that it found that it is unlikely to negatively affect ACRES payments for most farmers.

However, she added that farmers affected by this need to be accommodated.

“My understanding is that they do intend to proceed with the proposed buffer zone of 100m around active turbary areas on commonages.

“However, the reply I received acknowledged that the Department continue[s] to work through all of the relevant data and that there may still be some farmers whose ACRES payment is affected as a result of the inclusion of this rule within the overall scoring of land parcels.

“I appreciate that turbary areas require a specific scoring system, both to protect the land and ensure supports for farmers in those areas.

“The use of a patchwork scoring system is important for ensuring that overall scores are not impacted, in turn affecting ACRES payments for farmers in those areas.

“Yet, we still have a situation where farmers and organisations such as the INHFA have pointed out that their understanding of how turbary areas on commonage would be scored does not line up with how they will actually be scored,” she said.


The agriculture spokesperson added that it is “unfair that farmers could be penalised when they were not aware such a rule existed”.

“Farmers have delivered on their measures, they complied with the rules as they were set out and the goalposts cannot now just be changed out of the blue.

“With this in mind, I would urge the Minister to engage with any farmers whose scores are affected as a result of a buffer zone being applied to turbary areas and seek to ensure that ACRES payments are not reduced as a direct result of this rule,” she said.