The flat-rate interim Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) payment to be made this month will be a “financial lifeline” for many farmers, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has said.

INHFA vice-president John Joe Fitzgerald welcomed the interim payment of €5,000 for farmers in the co-operation stream and €4,000 for farmers in the general stream of the scheme.

“For many farmers, [this is] a financial lifeline as they deal with rising costs that continue to overshadow improving market returns.

“We must give credit where it is due and the announcement by Minister [for Agriculture Charlie] McConalogue is a fair effort to address ongoing concerns around the issuing of ACRES monies,” he said.

Turbary turf cutting

Fitzgerald added that the issue of how active turf cutting on commonages will affect ACRES scores was raised with Minister McConalogue at the annual general meeting (AGM) of Donegal INHFA.

“The INHFA has highlighted this with the Minister and Department staff and as concern among farmers grows, it is vital that we find a fair solution.

“The solution cannot penalise farmers for the actions of others, especially where these actions are not breaking any law,” he said.

Turf cut under turbary rights on commonage lands in ACRES is to be scored separately to non-turbary areas entered into the scheme.

However, turf cutting on non-turbary areas of commonage will be penalised, it was clarified last year.

Tranche two

Fitzgerald said all 9,200 applicants to tranche two of ACRES need to be accommodated, as opposed to the 4,000 currently budgeted for.

“This will cost in the region of €30m annually, but should be seen in the context of commitments given to supporting farmers as they address national and global concerns around biodiversity and climate change,” he said.