Hill Farming Reports

Hill Farming Council Report November 2023

  1. Scheme Updates 


  • Approx. 18,600 applications were received and accepted to take part in the Co-operation approach ACRES. DAFM estimate that 500,000ha of privately owned upland will be covered across the Co-Operation areas.  
  • 10,220 herd owners with commonage in were accepted under ACRES T1. It is estimated that 268,518 Ha of commonage is included under the scheme, with an average claim of 27 Ha. 
  • Scoring commenced for results-based measures during the Summer. The deadline for the submission of scorecards was extended to 29th September. Approximately 170,000 scorecards were issued, with 98% of those completed and returned to DAFM. 
  • DAFM confirmed that applications for Non-Productive Investments will open for CP applicants in Q4. The full list of NPI’s available can be viewed on the DAFM website. The investment items are divided amongst three categories; 
  • Habitat & Wildlife support 
  • Infrastructure 
  • Scrub/Track (Burran/Aran CP Zone Only) 
  • Farmers can submit one annual work plan per year. Once approved, works can commence. DAFM expected online facilities to open soon, with first approvals to commence works expected in Spring 2024.  
  • 85% advance payments for ACRES Tranche 1 participants are expected in late November, with the balancing payment due in May 2024.  
  • The Minister announced his intention to open Tranche 2 of ACRES in November, but seems limited to extra 4,000. Ranking and selection will be employed where application numbers exceed places available. IFA continue to insist that it is essential all interested farmers accommodated 

Walks Scheme 

  • Following IFA lobbying, an expansion of the Walks Scheme from 80 to 150 trails in the next 2 years was announced by Minister for Rural & Community Development, Heather Humphreys. 
  • Funding of €2.4m has been allocated to the expansion of the scheme and will bring the number of farmers/landowners on the Walks Scheme to 2,500. 
  • The deadline for expressions of interest for the scheme was extended until Friday 20th October 2023 
  • At the end of September, 13 LDC’s had submitted EOIs for 33* trails 
  • 68 trails brought onto scheme (administered by 20 Local Development Companies), involving 2,357 participants/landowners. 1 at final stage of joining scheme. Work is progressing on remaining 11 trails 
  • Following calls from IFA, the hourly rate for farmer/landowners on the Walks Scheme has been increased to €15.52 in line with the updated TAMS costings for 2023.  

NPWS Farm Plan Scheme  

  • Following IFA lobbying, additional funding was secured for the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme. The scheme reopened for new applications in June and closed on 4th August 2023 
  • 157 applications were received for the NPWS Farm Plan call in 2023. Currently there are 357 farm plans and with this new tranche and sites included there will be in excess of 400 Farm Plans in operation in 2024. NPWS have committed a budget of just over €3million to support the projects, with additional support to the NPWS for an enhanced Farm Plan in Budget 2024. 
  • IFA have called on Minister Noonan to increase the payment rates of the scheme to reflect the additional coast of burden on farmers whose land is designated.  
  • IFA Hill Committee continue to participate in the Designated Areas Monitoring Committee. 
  1. Activity since last National Council 
  • The latest meeting of the Hill Farming Committee took place on 5th October in the Michael Cusack Centre, Co. Clare. Guest speakers on the day included Maura Kiely, CEO of Leave no Trace and members from the ACRES Burren-Aran Cooperation Team. 
  • IFA attended the Official Launch of Get Ireland Active, the National Digital Database of Sport and Recreation Amenities, in Sport Ireland Arena, in conjunction with Comhairle na Tuaithe.  
  • IFA continues to participate in a number of subgroups in conjunction with  Comhairle na Tuaithe  
  • Strategy Implementation and Oversight Subgroup (SIOG) –Main role is to make recommendations and provide feedback to Comhairle na Tuaithe, to assist in the practical implementation of Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027, including identifying relevant sub-actions for delivery 
  • The Responsible Behaviour subgroup: Develop agreed position on responsible behaviour in the outdoors, including dog control, by all Comhairle na Tuaithe stakeholders. IFA priorities include;  
  • Develop and deliver a responsible Behaviour in the Outdoors Plan, including a campaign to promote a culture of responsible dog ownership in outdoor recreation 
  • Develop clear communications that enables better understanding of the landowner’s position around access and liability, and the personal responsibility of recreational users for their own safety 
  • The Membership and Working Arrangements of Comhairle na Tuaithe is currently being reviewed. Subgroup will also identify other strategic groups/networks that are operational in the outdoor recreation space and consider any linkages that are relevant to the work of CnT. Work expected to be complete in the coming weeks, with a report and recommendations presented to CnT for consideration 
  • Ongoing communication with the Walks Scheme Review Consultative Group 
  1. Upcoming issues 
  • IFA will attend the Uplands Symposium on 16th November in Westport, Co.Mayo  
  • Meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe on 23rd November in Athlone 
  • Meeting of the Responsible Behaviour in the Outdoors subgroup on 27th November 
  • IFA will be assisting a number of farmers over the coming weeks with appeals related to burning.  
  • Ongoing communication with DAFM re issues relating to CP areas within ACRES scheme 

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