The DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) will accept all valid ACRES applications in 2023, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has confirmed.
According to the minister, the DAFM received more than 46,000 applications for tranche 1 of its new €1.5 billion flagship agri-environmental scheme.
The DAFM has undertaken eligibility checks on the applications since the closing date, and all applicants for tranche 1, whose applications have passed eligibility checks, are being accepted into the scheme, the DAFM outlined.
As outlined in this news article on That’s Farming last week, ACRES aims to contribute significantly to achieving improved biodiversity, climate, and air and water quality outcomes.
According to a statement from the DAFM, an underlying principle is “the location of the right action in the right place”.
The scheme revolves around adopting a habitats-based focus, delivered through both multi-functional prescription and results-based actions.
There are two approaches within ACRES, namely:
- An ACRES General approach offering a range of General Actions for farmers outside of the ACRES cooperation areas (as outlined below); and
- A cooperation approach is available to farmers in eight defined high-priority geographical areas; the majority of which are along the western seaboard. Participating farmers will be facilitated by a Local Co-operation Project (CP) Team.
Applicants for ACRES General can choose from a range of actions that they wish to carry out on their farms, for which they could receive an annual maximum payment of €7,311.
Those with results-based actions will have the relevant parcels scored by their ACRES advisor from June 1st to August 31st, 2023.
Participants in ACRES CP will see habitats identified and the relevant scorecards assigned by CP Teams, following which their farms will be scored by their ACRES advisor over the summer months.
The payment due will be based on the scores achieved.
The Department, with CP teams, will be providing training, in late May, to ACRES Advisors on such scoring.
An ACRES CP participant may receive up to €7,000 annually in results-based payments (depending on the score).
A further €3,500 is available annually for ACRES CP participants in respect of non-productive investments and/or landscape actions.
Contracts under each tranche will be for five calendar years, the DAFM outlined.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said:
“Farmers have shown their desire to enhance the environmental sustainability of their enterprises through their enthusiasm for the CAP Strategic Plan’s flagship environmental programme.”
“Farmers have shown that they are ready and willing to play their part, and both the government and I are backing those ambitions.”
“I want to harness that enthusiasm and deliver the maximum possible environmental benefit.”
“It will be challenging, and it will require an intensive and focused effort from all concerned – from my department, from advisors, from Cooperation Project Teams and from farmers – but I look forward to working with everyone to achieve that objective.”
ACRES applicants will hear further from the DAFM, in “the coming days” as it issues formal approval letters.
“The message, for now, is that farmers should wait until they receive their letters before contacting either the department or their advisor.”
The minister noted that an approval summary, which will show where actions have been mapped on the participant’s farm, will also be sent to ACRES participants by the end of March.
The DAFM will also issue a species identification booklet to help farmers identify the indicator species on their land to be used in the scoring process.
He also noted that to accommodate the “significantly higher-than-anticipated” number of participants, access to the BISS application system for ACRES applicants will be made available on a gradual basis over the next few weeks, as approvals issue and as the required updates to mapping systems are made.
The DAFM expects this process to be completed by the end of the month.