“There is a new ACRES scheme coming out and, by God, it’s acres you need to try and get the money in it.”

Those are the words of independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice who was speaking on the latest episode of Farmland produced by Agriland Media Group.

The Roscommon Galway representative has said that ACRES is “totally anti-rural and totally opposed to small farmers”.

“If you dig into the scheme and the terms and conditions you will see that a farmer on 40-50ac 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 and if you don’t have extra flowers in the 10ha, then you will be back to payment of €2,000 as against €3,140 in GLAS [Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme].”

The independent TD added that farmers are paid separately under the fencing-off of watercourses in GLAS, whereas this is included in the €2,000 on the new low input permanent pasture.

You can watch the full interview on the video below.

Further concerns with ACRES

Deputy Fitzmaurice has claimed that for the smaller farmers who are trying to grow, or secure extra income, they are not allowed to plant any trees around that 10ha to try to increase the funds received.

“So, for the small farmer, this leaves them with little or virtually no extra income,” Fitzmaurice said.

“On top of that, for farmers that traditionally sowed the wild bird cover, the date is now brought forward by two weeks, and 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.

“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?” he added.

The independent TD said that there are a lot of areas where farmers have sown wild bird cover and deer come out of forests to eat 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?” Fitzmaurice stated.

“This scheme will not help the planners. I have talked to planners around the country who have brought in up to 50 farmers, and before they bring them in, bear in mind they would spend an hour talking to them. And from what I can see, the small farmers with up to 40-50ac, many of which were in GLAS, are now refusing to be in the new scheme.

“One planner I spoke to said that he had talked to 43 different farmers that were in GLAS but only four 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?”

Call to suspend scheme

Deputy Fitzmaurice has called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to pause ACRES immediately and make changes to it.

Otherwise “he will be contributing to the demise of the farming community, especially the small farmers that a lot of these schemes should be aimed at supporting”, Fitzmaurice added.

“It is regrettable that a minister coming from the north west 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.”

Deputy Fitzmaurice claimed that “the reality of it is that if you have 40ac of land, or maybe 50ac, the most you will be able to get out of this is €2,500-3,000 and that will be between €1,300-1,800 less than what farmers received from GLAS”.

Fitzmaurice acknowledged that schemes such as Basic Payment Scheme, and Organic Scheme are well thought out, but criticised the DAFM for its approach to this latest environmental scheme.