The Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has announced the allocation of €5m in funding for the Pilot Farm Environmental Study (FES) which will allow for approximately 6,000 farm habitat surveys to be completed by private farm advisers.

Farmers participating in the pilot survey will be provided with an inventory of the habitats present on their farm, as well as €200 for their time, once their adviser uploads the survey to the Department’s portal.

The scheme will remain open to applications on until 27 May, with the Department administering a ranking and selection process for choosing participating farmers.

The first farms will be surveyed over the coming months, with the Department expecting to present the results of the survey in the final quarter of the year.

Wealth of data

“I am delighted to be opening this really important €5m measure which will be a significant step to increasing our knowledge and understanding of biodiversity on farms along with a wealth of scientific data,” Minister McConalogue said when announcing the allocation.

“This is an exciting measure and I believe it is the launch pad for a whole new and untapped potential for Irish agriculture. Having a baseline knowledge of the biodiversity resources we have on our farms is essential going forward,” he said.

“In order to tackle the challenges of the future, we first must know the potential of the present and the FES is central to this new era we are facing into,” the minister continued.

The FES will be rolled out by the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) – the representative body for private farm advisers - in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture.

“The collaboration between my Department and the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) on work to date is a welcome development,” he said.

Establishing a baseline

The baseline habitat data collected through the scheme will feed into initiatives under CAP, the Climate Action Plan, the Water Framework and Nitrates Directives, as well as the EU’s Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett commented that the results of the survey will allow farmers to adjust their management in an informed way.

“The opening of the FES is an invaluable opportunity to establish a much-needed database of baseline biodiversity information on farmland,” stated Minister Hackett.

“The FES will allow farmers to engage with farm advisers to better understand and appreciate the habitats and biodiversity value of their own land, and to tailor their farm management accordingly,” she said before encouraging farmers to apply to the survey.