It is expected that 40,000ha of Burren land will be assessed and scored for nature under the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) co-operation project (CP), Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett has said.
Speaking following a meeting with farmers and local representatives from the Burren this week, she said the Burren Programme has been a fantastic example of what a well-designed, locally led agri-environmental scheme can deliver.
“Our aim with ACRES is to upscale our environmental ambition significantly. [Some] 1,300 farmers in the Burren Aran region will be able to participate in ACRES CP, which is an increase of over 300% on the current number of approximately 300 farmers working in the Burren Programme. This increase in the number of farmers participating will result in a substantial increase in land under ACRES CP.
“It is expected that 40,000ha will be assessed and scored for nature under ACRES CP, up from 11,000ha under the Burren Programme.”
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that the Burren Programme has been a huge success for farmers and the environment but that now is the time to ramp up ambitions and significantly increase the number of farmers in the results-based payment model.
“Building on the success of that model in the Burren Programme, it is important to offer that opportunity to a far greater number of farmers so that a much larger land area is scored, with the ultimate goal of achieving better outcomes for biodiversity, climate and water quality,” he said.
The Ministers said they recognise the importance of ensuring that farmers with extensive areas of high-environmental quality lands are incentivised to continue to provide a high level of environmental benefit.
They noted that Department of Agriculture officials have been working closely with the Burren CP team to develop a bespoke bonus payment structure to achieve this aim, and reward such farmers to maintain their land at a high environmental level, thereby prevent backsliding or environmental decline.
The Ministers said that Department officials will continue to support all farmers, CP zones and advisors in the lead up to the ACRES deadline as well as supporting them throughout the duration of the next CAP period.