Talks between the Department of Agriculture and the team behind the Burren Programme broke down six weeks ago, the Farming Independent can reveal.
This is despite a statement by the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, last Tuesday which said that his officials have been “working closely” with the project team to develop a bespoke system for Burren farmers under the new BurrenAran ACRES scheme.
The Farming Independent understands that the last meeting aimed at resolving this dispute took place on October 20.
Founders of the Burren Programme, Brendan Dunford and Sharon Parr, announced earlier this month that they were resigning from the project because they could not stand over the limitations of the new ACRES scheme.
Speaking after last Tuesday’s meeting with Minister McConalogue and Junior Minister Pippa Hackett, Mr Dunford said that they were no closer to finding a solution.
“The meeting was a welcome opportunity to explain to the Ministers why the proposed payment structures in ACRES would most likely lead to an erosion of the environmental gains made under the Burren Programme and also a reduction in agri-environment payments for many high nature value farmers in the region,” he said
“The chance to be heard was very welcome and the group of farmers and local representatives got a good hearing. In terms of resolving the issues raised, there was no clear proposals as to how we progress.”
The new BurrenAran ACRES, due to take effect on January 1, has been criticised by farmers and environmentalists for removing the incentives for farmers to do more to protect the environment.
Meanwhile, the Burren’s five IFA branches held a joint meeting last Thursday to discuss the future of the Burren Programme. Chairperson of Burren IFA, Michael Davoren, said that Burren farmers were being “blackmailed” into accepting the new scheme.
“There was outrage expressed by members of the five branches at the meeting,” said Mr Davoren.
“There are no negotiations taking place, let’s put that notion to bed. There has been no negotiations for months. This situation will not be resolved unless the Minister directs his officials to find a solution.
“The farmers of the Burren are now being blackmailed, you either go into ACRES or you get nothing. We need this money, it’s part of our income, it’s keeping us going.”