McNamara says Burren and Slieve Aughty farmers worse off under ACRES

Farmers in the Burren and Slieve Aughty areas of County Clare are financially worse off under the agricultural scheme that replaced the Hen Harrier Project and The Burren Life Programme, according to Michael McNamara T.D.

Addressing Tánaiste Micheál Martin in Dáil Éireann this week, the Independent Clare Deputy highlighted how a previous pledge from Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue that farmers would receive equal payments under ACRES had not materialised.

Deputy McNamara said the Government needs to offer more than words of support to affected farmers.

“The hen harrier project in Slieve Aughty is now winding down, as is Burren Life,” Deputy McNamara told the Dail on Thursday. “Farmers farming in designated areas are now receiving less money than they did before. Initially, the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, said they would receive as much under ACRES. It is now abundantly clear to everybody that they are getting less money. When I pointed this out to the Tánaiste towards the end of his tenure as Taoiseach, he said it was not good enough. I have raised it consistently since. The last I heard from the Minister was that he would ask his officials to look into it. I have not heard back since.”

Deputy McNamara asked, “Will the Government provide funding for farmers in designated areas who are farming environmentally sensitive lands to a high standard and getting less money for it than they did previously?”

In response Tanaiste Micheál Martin said, ” I am a great admirer of the hen harrier project. It was outstanding, as was the Burren Life project. We achieved meaningful gains. The challenges with ACRES and new schemes are that these schemes became somewhat of a victim of them in the levels of support available. I spoke to the Minister. I will speak to him again. The Department of agriculture needs to be more innovative in these matters. The farmers like them. They were co-operative and helpful and enjoyed the outcomes. It was a win-win. In agriculture and farming, we need a strong agrifood industry. We need to work and co-operate with farmers, which was manifested in these schemes.”