IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins has acknowledged confirmation from the Department of Agriculture of changes to specifications of the ACRES scheme.
“The changes to the extensively grazed pasture measure now means farmers will receive €250 per hectare instead of €200 under this measure and can claim €2,000, with eight hectares of land instead of 10 hectares. This will help farmers with smaller holdings qualify for a higher payment under ACRES, which is a positive development and something we have been pressing strongly for months now.”
The changes to the extensively grazed pasture measure follows numerous engagements on this issue between the IFA and the Department.
Michael Biggins also noted confirmation that the area that can qualify for the riparian zone measure will remain at two hectares.
“It was vital this measure remained at two hectares to ensure farmers can build a decent ACRES payment on their farms. The mooted reduction to one hectare was something IFA made clear we could not accept, particularly given that many farmers had already plans drafted up based on two hectares of a riparian zone,” he said.
IFA Hill Chairman Caillin Conneely said it’s vital that changes are seen for farmers in Co-operation areas. “€7,000 is currently ring-fenced for results-based and general measures before adding non-productive investments and landscape actions. Flexibility is needed for those who may not meet that €7,000 ceiling in order for them to maximise their payment”.
Under Budget 2023, the Minister for Agriculture announced 30,000 places under Tranche 1 of ACRES. With contracts under GLAS and REAP set to finish at the end of this year, combined with expressions of interest for ACRES, it is expected that over 60,000 farmers may wish to participate in an agri-environment scheme.
Michael Biggins concluded, “it’s essential that all farmers eligible for an environmental scheme receive a payment in 2023. This can be done by offering a bridging payment to farmers who are not successful in tranche 1 of ACRES that matches their previous agri-environmental scheme payment, or alternatively by paying an upfront payment in 2023 for Tranche 2 ACRES participants, similar to the way REPS payments were in the past”.