Commonage farmers on Achill Island, Co Mayo, have been penalised for overclaiming land under the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS), a move which has been described as out of order, by Mayo Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) hill representative Pat Chambers.
Chambers said that 46 letters had been issued to farmers on the Mission Estate commonage on the island, where they were penalised for overclaiming net areas.
This, he said, was completely out of order, as the same farmers had applied for the same areas in previous years.
Chambers was speaking after an IFA delegation from Mayo met with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue over the delay in BISS and Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) payments to Achill Island and Inishbofin Island farmers.
Problems have also arisen where farmers have been penalised for the burning of heather in these areas which had absolutely nothing to do with the farmers, Chambers said.
Local planner in the Achill region John Lee, who has lived and worked in the area for years, said farmers would be the last people to cause burning.
It was not in their interest to do such a thing when they had invested in fencing and environmental actions down through the years, he said.
Lee also said that the delay in these payments was having a severe financial impact on the farmers in question, as they have several bills to pay between bank loans, contractors and veterinary animal feed bills.
When asked by the Irish Farmers Journal if farmers on Achill Island had received cuts to their BISS payments due to burning, a Department of Agriculture spokesperson outlined that under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976, as amended by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, growing vegetation cannot be burned between 1 March and 31 August of any given year (the closed period), on any land not yet cultivated.
“Where land has been burned between 1 March and 31 August, it is not in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation and therefore is not eligible for the remainder of the year,” it said.
The Department “is aware of an area of burned land in the Achill area and has been in contact with the farmers affected in the area”.
“Remittance of payments has been unaffected by this issue, however affected farmers will see the necessary reductions applied.”