IFA National Rural Development Chair Michael Biggins has acknowledged the commitment by Minister McConalogue to opening Tranche 2 of the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), but said more is needed to get more farmers into the scheme.
“With Tranche 2 set to open shortly, it is vital that the Minister now finds the necessary funding to accommodate all eligible applicants. Under the existing CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027, ACRES has a target for 50,000 applicants, but changes must be made to accommodate more, if more farmers are willing and interested in improving the biodiversity, water quality and environmental status of their holding,” Michael Biggins said.
“Technicalities cannot hinder progress. We either want to achieve our environmental targets or we don’t. The ambition of farmers needs to be matched by adequate resources,” he said.
“In Tranche 1, we saw 46,000 farmers apply for 30,000 places on the scheme. The 4,000 places remaining will fall far short of expected demand. We are hearing there could be up to 2,000 farmers interested in the South West region alone. The level of demand will be multiples of what there is current provision for,” he said.
“Many farmers put off applying for ACRES in Tranche 1 due to changes in leasing arrangements, land transfers etc. New entrants to farming were also locked out of the scheme in 2022 as they had not made a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application in 2021, which rendered them ineligible for Tranche 1,” he added.
“The extra €40m in funding to ACRES announced in the Budget last week will simply finance those that got in under Tranche 1. It won’t solve the problem we have now of many farmers wanting to get into ACRES, spending money engaging with over-stretched planners and getting plans developed, only to find that demand far exceeds allocated places and their application is unsuccessful. We need proactive solutions here fast,” he said.
“A great deal of low-income families, particularly those in vulnerable sectors, rely on agri-environment programmes to survive. At a time when there is so much focus on climate change and biodiversity, it is imperative that all farmers who apply for ACRES under Tranche 2 are included,” Michael Biggins concluded.