A new pilot Farm Environmental Study (FES) opened for applications on Wednesday 10 May. The pilot initiative will offer successful applicants an opportunity to learn more about farmland habitats and this will include a farm survey to identify, record, map and assess habitats present.

Farmers will receive a payment of €200 following the results of their study being uploaded by an adviser appointed to carry out the farm study. It is expected that surveys will take place late in quarter two of 2022.

The terms and conditions state that all farm surveys and photographs must be submitted by 31 October 2022 and that farmers will receive payment on the completion of these steps by the FES adviser.

Farmers wishing to apply for the FES must apply through the Department www.agfood.ie facility by the closing date of 27 May 2022. The agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) has been awarded the contract for the training of farm advisers on FES surveying and mapping.

They will be responsible for the management and roll-out of approximately 6,000 farm habitat surveys.

Pilot rollout

Once an application is deemed successful, a trained farm adviser will carry out each farm habitat and biodiversity survey with the involvement of the participating farmer.

The Department of Agriculture explains that this new level of biodiversity data will provide participating farmers with greater awareness of the biodiversity potential on their lands.

Selection criteria and approval

The Department of Agriculture will administer the farmer application process and ranking and selection requirements for the pilot programme through the online AgFood.ie resource.

The terms and conditions of the pilot list the following points as being used to rank and select applications if the scheme is oversubscribed;

  • The minister may reject applications or require them to be varied if, in their opinion, the applications are not likely to contribute to the overall objectives of the project.
  • Selected successful applicants will be notified in writing of their acceptance into FES and of the commencement date of their contract.
  • The following will be used to determine a representative sample of farms for scheme entry;
  • Region.
  • Farming enterprise.
  • Farm size (ha).
  • In the case where FES is oversubscribed, farms will be accepted on a first come-first served basis, with measures to ensure each category of farm is proportionally represented.

    Farmers participating in Teagasc’s Signpost programme will be given priority access.

    Baseline habitat and biodiversity data

    The Department of Agriculture states that the farm habitat surveys will work to establish a framework to generate a database of habitat and biodiversity data and a baseline for future targeting of agri-environmental policy, schemes and measures.

    Opening the pilot measure, Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “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.

    “This is an exciting measure and I believe it is the launch pad for a whole new and untapped potential for Irish agriculture,” he said.

    “Having a baseline knowledge of the biodiversity resources we have on our farms is essential going forward.

    “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 concluded.

    Minister of State Pippa Hackett also welcomed the opening of FES.

    Minister Hackett commented: “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.

    “I would strongly encourage any farmer interested in farming with nature in mind to get involved,” she said.