ICSA Rural Development chair Tim Farrell has challenged Minister McConalogue to demonstrate how the new ACRES scheme will bring any worthwhile benefits to active, commercial farmers. “In particular, I am openly saying that there will be very few farmers in the general scheme who will get to the maximum €7,300. I don’t know if the Minister realises this but when you look at the proposals, this scheme will struggle to deliver even €5,000 to medium scale, commercial farmers and that’s before costs.”
Mr Farrell was speaking after a meeting with Department officials on the new ACRES scheme. He said he was extremely disappointed and frustrated that the scheme has not been significantly enhanced compared to GLAS. “The Department are living in a different world bringing forward a scheme that is less valuable than REPS, AEOS and GLAS in real terms at a time when the EU and the government claim that the environment is the be all and end all of agricultural policy.”
“For farmers in the general scheme, the main options are low input grassland (results based, payment ranging from €250-€400/ha) to a maximum 10 ha, and extensively grazed pasture (€200/ha) to a maximum 10 ha. This means that a farmer would have to allocate up to fifty acres to farming in a very extensive manner, and at the end, would likely achieve a payment of little over €5,000. The majority of farmers will not be able to sacrifice fifty acres so many will achieve closer to €3,000.”
“Farmers will also have to factor in the cost of a planner, which will be a significant up-front fee and subsequent payments thereafter. The Minister is burying his head in the sand if he thinks this is attractive in the current inflationary environment for farmers.”
ICSA is also very frustrated that the scheme will not be open to new entrants or young farmers who did not apply for BPS in 2021, unless they are taking over an existing herd number.
It will also be challenging for many farmers to even get access to the scheme if they are not Tier 1 priority (natura or commonage land, presence of species such as geese and swans/breeding waders etc or else registered organic farmers).
Farmers will also have to get their skates on if they want to participate as the scheme will be going live on the Department online portal in August 2022.