IFA National Rural Development Chair Michael Biggins is seeking a meeting with Minister McConalogue to address outstanding issues regarding the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).
Michael Biggins said that all farmers who wish to participate must be accepted into the scheme and those applying in 2023 must receive a payment in the same year.
“There is a real concern about farmer’s income if there is a lag between GLAS/REAP and ACRES, which will be caused by the tranche approach. Not accepting all who wish to participate into the scheme in 2023 is totally unacceptable. GLAS/ACRES payments are a critical component of farmers’ incomes. It is essential that all applicants under all tranches receive a portion of their payment, equivalent to an 85% advance payment, as is currently the case in GLAS, in 2023,” he said.
“In Budget 2023, the Minister for Agriculture allocated funding for only 30,000 places under Tranche 1 of ACRES, with Tranche 2 not expected to open until Q4 2023. Based on participation levels in GLAS and REAP scheme, combined with expressions of interest for ACRES, it is expected that approx. 60,000 farmers may wish to participate in the agri-environment scheme”.
“I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to ensure all valid scheme applications are accepted while also ensuring that no farmer is left without an environment scheme payment for 2023.”
“This can be done by either offering a bridging payment to farmers who are not successful in tranche 1 of ACRES or by paying an upfront ACRES payment in 2023 for Tranche 2 participants, similar to the way REPS payments were in the past,” he said.
The IFA National Rural Development Chair has urged the Minister to extend the deadline for Tranche 1 to ensure all farmers interested in joining are given the opportunity to apply.
“With the deadline for ACRES of Monday 21st November fast approaching, planners/consultants and farmers are under increasing pressure to complete and submit applications. This tight 6-week deadline may drastically reduce the number of applications received. The closing date for the scheme must be extended to mid-December to ensure sufficient time is given to drawing up plans, to maximize farmer participation and their payment in the scheme”, he concluded.